Newsletter: June 30, 2015, Issue #55


Global WaSH News

U.S. EPA says fracking not harmful to water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently shared preliminary findings from a five year study on drinking water contamination due to fracking. Of particular interest, the study found only isolated cases of water contamination and a limited number of affected wells. This report comes shortly after the release of research from The Water Institute that revealed gaps in periodic testing for water contamination. These gaps illuminate the necessity of improved water quality testing compliance at both water treatment facilities and in wells, particularly in light of increased fracking activity in the U.S., which is expected to continue rising.

Water quality threatens 2016 Rio Olympics sailing venue

The Washington Post reports on water quality concerns in Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay, where 2016 Olympic sailing races will take place. Only 49% of sewage from human and non-human sources in Rio de Janeiro is treated before it enters the sea, resulting in water quality indicators below Brazilian government standards for protecting health. Safe disposal and management of human feces poses significant challenges to authorities worldwide, especially in urban areas. Water Institute researchers are investigating the fraction of human waste which is returned unsafely to the environment after it has been collected. That study will estimate where in the sanitation chain this occurs, which will enable improved targeting of investments.

Conference News

Water and Health Conference: Where Science Meets Policy

We are pleased to announce that we have awarded six full scholarships this year to authors from low- and middle-income countries to attend the Water and Health Conference and present their work. A full list of the recipients and their presentations may be found on the conference website.

Side event schedules will be released in the coming weeks. Check the Conference homepage for updates and to see the overall schedule for the 2015 Conference. The early bird deadline for discounted registration is August 14.

Thank you to our sponsors: The Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program, MENA NWC, Aquatabs, and the UNC Institute for the Environment. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.

Water Microbiology Conference: Presentations online

Presentations, photos, abstract books, and participant lists from the Water Microbiology Conference 2015 are available on the Conference website. Mark your calendars for the next Water Microbiology Conference – May 16-20, 2016 at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill, N.C., U.S.A.

Water Institute News

Water Safety Plans distance learning course

Water Safety Plans offer a new approach to managing risks of water system failure, and may be of particular interest to those in the water industry with management, engineering, or operational responsibilities. The Water Institute offers a Water Safety Plans distance learning course for those seeking to learn more about Water Safety Plans and how to develop one. The course will be offered September 7 through November 15 and allows flexibility for those with limited access to the internet and offers four Continuing Education Units upon completion.

New knowledge management team member

Alec Shannon joined The Water Institute this month as a knowledge management associate. She is a recent graduate of Duke University’s Global Health Institute, where she conducted fieldwork in Duaipur, India on willingness to pay for water and sanitation technologies. She will work with our knowledge management team in support of the WHO/UNICEF Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage network, newsletter content and other research dissemination.

Now hiring post-doctoral researcher

We are hiring post-doctoral researchers in sanitation, urban water quality, and MEL. Most positions are for one year with the possibility of renewal depending on availability of funding and progress. Applications must be submitted through Careers at Carolina.

Recent Publications on WaSH from UNC Researchers

Otten, T.G., and H.W. Paerl. 2015. Health Effects of Toxic cyanobacteria in U.S. Drinking and Recreational Waters: Our Current Understanding and Proposed Direction. Current Environmental Health Reports 2(1): 75-84. doi: 10.1007/s40572-014-0041-9.

Cyanobacteria is a growing concern worldwide as they are harmful to both ecosystems and humans. This review surveys relevant literature to inform best management practices for this global health threat.

Vergara, G.G.R.V., S.G. Goh, S. Rezaeinejad, S.Y. Chang, M.D. Sobsey, and K.Y.H. Gin. 2015. Evaluation of FRNA coliphages as indicators of human enteric viruses in a tropical urban freshwater catchment. Water Research 79: 39-47. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2015.04.022

This study evaluates the relationships between FRNA coliphages and human enteric viruses in a tropical urban freshwater catchment. Positive associations between the two validate their use as viral indicators and for tracking microbial sources. Researchers analyzed concentrated and environmental water samples. Results detailed the most abundant enteric viruses and statistical relationships between human specific coliphages and several human enteric viruses in the environment.

Liang, L., S.G. Goh, G.G.R.V. Vergara, H.M. Fang, S. Rezaeinejad, S.Y. Chang, S. Bayen, W.A. Lee, M.D. Sobsey, J.B. Rose, et. al. 2015. Alternative fecal indicators and their empirical relationships with enteric viruses, Salmonella enterica, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in surface waters of a tropical urban catchment. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 81(3):850-860.

The suitability of traditional microbial indicators has been challenged due to the lack of correlation with pathogens and evidence of possible regrowth in the natural environment. In this study, the relationships between alternative microbial indicators of potential human fecal contamination and pathogens were compared with those of traditional microbial indicators. Relationships between alternative microbial indicators of potential human fecal contamination and pathogens were compared with those of traditional ones. Results confirm that inclusion of human polyomaviruses and M. Smithii, in addition to traditional indicators, would better predict the occurrence of pathogens.

Campus WaSH News

Doctoral candidate, U.S. Army Major works on safer water for troops

An U.S. Army major enrolled in a PhD program at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health hopes to create a powerful new tool to reduce the challenge of contaminated water for the U.S. military and others. Under the supervision of Mark Sobsey, Kenan professor of environmental sciences and engineering, Jay Reyes hopes to improve the quality of water troops ingest in the field, especially as needed by small, highly mobile teams traveling on foot.

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