Proposed water safety standards criticized
February 10th, 2012
11:33 AM ET

Proposed water safety standards criticized

If you went to a beach where one in 28 swimmers later experienced diarrhea, stomachache or nausea, would you jump right in?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new water quality standards that would allow just such a beach to remain open, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“EPA has a duty to protect the public from all of these illnesses, but EPA seems to refuse to acknowledge this duty,” says Steve Fleischli, a senior attorney in the water program at NRDC who has written about the proposed criteria.
The proposed EPA criteria for coastal and Great Lakes beaches aren’t more lax than the current ones. They’re the same standards EPA first established back in 1986. What’s changed is the definition of illnesses from contaminated water. As evidence, NRDC points to the EPA’s own draft for Recreational Water Quality Criteria.

The original standards measured symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea with fever or stomachache with fever in 8 to 10 days after a trip to the beach. But the latest understanding of waterborne illness doesn't require fever and includes gastrointestinal illnesses in the 10 to 12 days after a trip to the beach.

Based on EPA's research, the same contaminated water once thought to sicken 8 out of 1,000 swimmers is now seen as sickening 36 out of 1,000 swimmers.

“Therefore, at the same level of water quality, more … illnesses will be observed,” EPA says in the draft.

Asked about this, EPA gave CNN a statement saying, “It is a useful, but uncertain estimation.”

Exceeding the EPA threshold prompts state or local governments to issue a beach advisory warning the public of unsafe water conditions.

EPA defended the proposed standards:

“EPA’s draft national Recreational Water Quality Criteria would protect more than 99 percent of swimmers from gastrointestinal illnesses with fever due to exposure to pathogens in the water over a swimming season [and] has largely prevented disease outbreaks related to water recreation activities in lakes, rivers, streams and at beaches since the mid-1980s.”

The statement added: “EPA considered the latest science and the best available scientific methods when developing the draft criteria recommendations.”

Fleischli disagrees.

“It’s more disappointing than discouraging,” Fleischli says. “We have time, hopefully, to educate EPA on the flaws in their approach.”

The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000 gave EPA five years to issue recreational beach criteria to protect swimmers’ health at coastal and Great Lakes beaches. When the agency missed its deadline, the NRDC sued. A court ordered the EPA to finalize the criteria by October 15.

soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. bobby

    The EPA allows water districts to put toxic fluoride in your drinking water..Even China has outlawed this barbaric practice of getting rid of toxic waste and giving it to the population in their drinking water.. Hey if you want fluoride, buy a fluoride toothpaste, but don't put it in my drinking water.. What a sick practice.. I don't know why people put up with this abuse??????

    February 10, 2012 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JC

      Fluoride wasn't introduced into the public water systems as a way to "get rid" of it. It seems you don't like the fact that you don't have a choice (assuming you are on a public system and not using a private well). It can have a signficant beneficial effect on infants and toddlers, since many parents may not start practicing dental hygiene on their children during those early years.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
    • jk

      Bobby/little boy, stop your cryin' and nd learn to voice your opinion/concern in a way that people will actually listen and not just laugh as they(I know I am) are now.

      February 10, 2012 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
    • Hatixhe

      I'm sure I'm not the only one who agrees with you Bobby! When I drink water, I want water and nothing else. If I want fluoride water, I go buy it. I hope people with infants and small children are not giving them faucet water, contaminated with whatever Government thinks it should put in the water for us.

      February 10, 2012 at 13:55 | Report abuse |
    • VoiceofReason

      @bobby and Hatixhe – You're both idiots if you think the worst thing in your drinking water is fluoride

      February 10, 2012 at 15:59 | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Fluoride works topically to make teeth harder meaning it has the most benefit when being applied to the surface of the tooth to make them harder. When you go to the beach and use sunblock to avoid sunburn do you drink the sunblock or do you spread it over your skin? I'm guessing if you drank it you would end up with a sunburn and get sick. Same concept with fluoride... There is no need to drink a substance that is known to increase the risk of bone cancer and lower IQ. Don't believe me, go look it up for yourself! Reverse osmosis filters are a great way to get rid of fluoride and are not very expensive. You can get the benefits topically without exposing your body to it.

      February 10, 2012 at 23:09 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Bobby and all the other of you fluoride haters....you ought to study a bit more before you comment about something you don't know anything about. There addition of a minimal amount of fluoride in your water strengthens the enamel on your teeth and helps them last longer during your growing years. The amount is regulated by the climate you live in because children in hotter climates will drink more water on average and therefore there is less fluoride in their water. Fluoride injected into public water systems is harmless. Now if you are dumb enough to think that well water will protect you from fluoride, you have another thing to learn. Well water is naturally acidic and will naturally attack deposits of fluoride in the ground and therefore typically well water has twice the level of fluoride found in a public water system. Do your children a big favor and have them drink tap water with fluoride!!!! Oh...and just in case you are wondering my qualifications....I have a degree from the Ohio State University and I hold a Class III water operators license in Ohio.

      February 11, 2012 at 22:36 | Report abuse |
  2. Mark Russell

    Bobby Do you also worry about the vampires and werewolves that live in the forest around your house? There are great anti-psychotic drugs on the market these days. Take one.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • FG

      Bobby iam 64 years old never had fluoride in water in my life. P.S. do not have one tooth of my own.

      February 10, 2012 at 13:43 | Report abuse |
    • Dragonmum

      If he's drinking US treated tap water, he's already taking more than his rec. daily dose of psychotropic drugs. But he's probably not getting cholera or dysentery, thanks to the public health standards. Why do we tolerate these health hazards in our ocean water? Diarrheal disease can be fatal to the young, elderly and immune-compromised. Is the EPA attempting to weaken protections to mollify Republicans, who see any attempt to police industrial pollution as anti-"job creator" and who want to eliminate the EPA altogether? It's lucky we still have concerned groups and citizen watchdogs who can speak for the rest of us!

      February 11, 2012 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
    • christy

      You people, who believe flouride is good for you, are the stupid ones, just like sheep being ls to the slaughter, unknowingly and willijngly naive to the absolute facts and history of this toxic substance introduced to the Jewish poulations during WWII by the Nazi's. Flouride causes decay of teeth from the inside out while brushing the teeth alone is corrosive to the outer layer of tooth enamel. Sodium flouride is the active ingredient in prozac and "soft-peter or salt-peter" to halt erections during boot camp in the military. To insist that this is good for you is ultimately retarded bull****. In gas form it was the most common way to kill the Jews in the Showers...6 million people folks. So do your research before sputtrering ingnorant propaganda like a fool on here for all to read. Semper Fidelis

      February 11, 2012 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
    • elvisisALLah

      LOL. Semper Silly. Where did you get your information? HAHA!

      February 11, 2012 at 22:19 | Report abuse |
  3. Thomas Wolfe

    Ya'll are making fun of Bobby, but he's actually right. It's easy to drink the kool-aid and poke fun when you don't know what you're talking about. Sometimes the conspiracy theories are right. Do your homework and you'll understand why Bobby was concerned.

    February 10, 2012 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • VoiceofReason

      You shouldn't use such a literary name when writing such idiotic nonsense

      February 10, 2012 at 16:01 | Report abuse |
  4. gager

    Flouride in the amounts to help teeth is not harmful. Ijuts.

    February 10, 2012 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • henry 2

      ok and what is the amount of flouride water your suppose to drink 1 cup 2 cups when is it to much did you stop to ever think that the flouride is not just in your water but in the soda you drink in your morning coffe at the mcdonalds down the street in your burgers in your pizzas anything that uses water is free gameyou need to buy a reverse osmosis filter dont get a brita filter or any of those brand name companies go online PUR BRITA and the other top one that i cant think of right now don't filter flouride at all!

      February 11, 2012 at 05:26 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      henry, what have they done to you? All your dots and commas are missing and what you wrote was therefore painful to read. You may be lacking a little fluoride.

      February 13, 2012 at 18:13 | Report abuse |
  5. gager

    I don't drink city water regardless, it is not as refreshing as rain water or store bought distilled water.

    February 10, 2012 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      I assume you collect rain from your roof? Covered in bird poop (amongst other refreshing things)?
      How do you get rid of the bird poop when collecting rain water to drink?

      As for distilled water, I would not recommend as the healthiest water around to drink.

      February 13, 2012 at 18:11 | Report abuse |
  6. The Truth

    JC Said: "It can have a signficant beneficial effect on infants and toddlers"

    Yes, if you want a lower IQ.

    Stop drinking the "koolaid" or should I say Flouride. And do some research on the dangers of Flouride.

    February 10, 2012 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CTYank

      Whazzat, eh? Flouride? No such thing. Some been working on that lowered IQ too long already

      February 11, 2012 at 03:35 | Report abuse |
  7. Joe B

    It is those who know the least about a topic who shoot off their mouths most confidently. We have excellent educational resources available for free to the public in this country (libraries, internets, etc). . It would be nice if they were thoughtfully used. We have excellent Schools of Public Health for those who would like to know more as opposed to mouthing off in their ignorance. The NRDC seems to have caught diarrhea of the mouth accompanied by constipation of thought.

    February 10, 2012 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. AGuest9

    Why not? Well water is allowed to be flammable where fracking is taking place.

    February 11, 2012 at 01:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. henry 2

    you guys are all morons floruide has no benifits what so ever visit the truth about flouride it says clearly on your tooth paste do not swallow contact poision control immeditaley it also says keep out of reach of infants for a reason flouride sticks to your bone not just your teeth it absorbs through your blood stream into your bone and after years and years goes deeper into the center this casues bone cancer and many different types of cancers and health risks. The truth is why the f do we still do this a study with 536 scientist was conducted and sent to the epa stating that they proved flouride is a huge health concer and should be removed from the water the epa turned them down. Flouride also affects the mind with the metals that are in your water making you softer in other words easier to control you become lazy thinking is tougher and it just sucks life from you. Europe knows this thats why they don't do it America is stupid you idiots use twitter google whatever is the craze without second thinking things why did Europe block googles new policy becuase they hate companies that intrude on it's citizens wow they actually stand up for themselves.

    February 11, 2012 at 05:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Massachusetts Baykeeper

    Thanks CNN for this great post. This is exactly why oversight groups like Waterkeeper Alliance and NRDC are so important to protect our families and preserve our waterways! Keep up the great work! Bree Callahan, Mass Baykeeper

    February 11, 2012 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Aquasafe Systems

    Kind of seems like the EPA is trying to reduce pollution simply by classifying fewer things as it, doesn't it? Not sure what they're going for. It's a bit concerning that the EPA seems to have lower standards than the people it's trying govern. It's not reasonable to demand 100% pure water on tap but a reverse osmosis system can do that easily enough. Then people don't have to worry about fluoride (or anything else) in the water.

    February 11, 2012 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Miss Demeanor

    To sum it up...CNN writes an article about polluted beach water... the tin-foil-hat crowd in california comes home from a hard day of surfing, reads the article... smokes some 'medical' weed and then posts comments to warn us all about fluoride.
    Their drug-filled urine goes back into the watershed so we can all share their drugs. Thanks for sharing.

    February 12, 2012 at 01:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Julnor

    The NRDC wants tighter regulations but provides no estimate for the cost of doing so and no clear benefit. Typical CNN article.

    February 13, 2012 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Ramona Cagle

    I am shocked at these people who can believe flouride is good for you! Look it up flouride= flourine a pale yellowish flammable irritating toxic gaseous chemicle element. Enough said, why would you put that in your tooth psate or mouth? Beats me! As stated on earlier post was used in the war to drug and kill the soldier's. i am so thankful I can filter that out with my own private Water Quality Association Medical Devise Machine! I drink great water 🙂 Have my health and life back!

    February 13, 2012 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Julnor

      The problem with your argument is that flourine is not used in it's pure state. It is combined with other elements to form a compound that is beneficial. Kind of like salt (NaCl) is formed from sodium (a highly reactive metal) and chlorine (an extremely toxic gas). Together they make a harmless and tasty substance.

      February 13, 2012 at 16:37 | Report abuse |
    • Klaudia

      I just got a lucky bamboo plant and a few of the leeavs are turning yellow. could I be watering it too much or what could be the cause? I am using good water, it does not have flouride or chlorine in it. Thanks much!

      March 3, 2012 at 18:21 | Report abuse |
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    June 22, 2012 at 16:33 | Report abuse | Reply
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