News Feature | November 25, 2017

CDC Reports 13 Water Contaminant-Caused Deaths From 2013-14

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


While opinion varies from person to person, for the most part, we assume that the drinking water running through our taps are safe. While that should remain a fair assumption, a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may cause doubt.

“In 2013-14, a total of 42 drinking-water-associated outbreaks caused by infectious pathogens, chemicals or toxins were reported to the CDC from 19 states. The outbreak do not include lead contamination,” Local 10 reported, based on CNN coverage of two CDC reports released earlier this month. “These outbreaks led to at least 1,006 cases of illness, 124 hospitalizations and 13 deaths.”

While these are relatively low figures given how many people around the country are consuming tap water, it does mark an increase in drinking water outbreaks compared to 2011-12, when only 32 such outbreaks were reported.

“Legionella caused more than half — 57% — of the outbreaks, 88% of the hospitalizations and all 13 deaths, according to the CDC,” reported CBS Pittsburgh, covering the same story. “Five outbreaks were caused by chemicals or toxic algal blooms rather than bacteria or parasites. The report said that 75% of the 1,006 cases of illness were linked to community water systems, which are government-regulated.”

It’s difficult to say how these findings will affect the practices of drinking water treatment plants, if they will at all. They are likely to at least provoke concern from consumers over the safety of their water supplies. The report cited Wilma Subra, the president of an environmental consulting firm, who called for more chlorination as a solution.

“Though water systems frequently ‘chlorinate before they distribute,’ Subra explained, in some cases, the level of chlorination ‘isn’t sufficient to make it all the way to the end of this distribution system,’” per the report. “’So if these bacteria are in there and don’t get properly treated before they leave the plant … then the bacteria grows again and causes the people in the farthest regions of the distribution system to become contaminated and to become ill,’ Subra said.”

To read more about how treatment facilities handle contaminants visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.

Image credit: "b530-4 Legionella pneumophilia…," Microbe World, 2010, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: