Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Updated Drinking Water Advisory Communication Toolkit

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Updated Drinking Water Advisory Communication Toolkit

Article excerpt

There have been several high profile contamination events of various municipal water systems, which serve as a reminder of the need for continual preparedness for emergencies and outbreaks related to water. In recent years, numerous emergencies associated with drinking water were caused by multiple factors including

* pipeline infrastructure failures;

* natural disasters damaging water distribution systems;

* contamination of drinking water by chemicals, toxins, and microbes; and

* construction operations severing water mains.

The Drinking Water Advisory Communication Toolkit (DWACT) is designed to help local water utilities, health departments, and community emergency managers create accurate and timely public messaging about these drinking water emergencies.

The DWACT was originally published in 2011 ( emergency/dwa-comm-toolbox/index.html?s_ cid=cs_001). It was the product of collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), and the American Water Works Association (AWWA), along with many external contributors and reviewers including the National Environmental Health Association. It was originally published to help prevent biological outbreaks following a water emergency. It is now being released in an updated edition.

The DWACT addresses four basic types of drinking water advisories.

1. Boil water advisory (most common): This advisory is typically issued because of concern about microbial contamination. The advisory may be either precautionary or mandatory.

2. Informational advisories: These announce planned or anticipated changes in water quality and provide advice on appropriate actions.

3. Do not drink advisories: These direct customers to use an alternative source of water and are typically issued because of concern about chemical or toxin contamination that cannot be addressed by boiling the water.

4. Do not use advisories: These instruct customers not to use tap water for any purpose, including flushing toilets or bathing. These types of advisories are issued only if microbial, chemical, or radiological contamination undoubtedly has occurred where any water contact can be dangerous.

The DWACT has been updated to reflect lessons learned in real-life emergencies since its original publication. Updated guidance addresses needs identified as a result of the following responses.

* Chemical spills such as those affecting the Elk River in West Virginia (January 2014).

* Harmful algal blooms affecting the Toledo, Ohio, water supply (August 2014).

* A Cryptosporidium outbreak in Baker City, Oregon, that resulted in an extended boil water advisory (July 2013).

* The Super Storm Sandy response and resulting water sanitation concerns in high-rise buildings in New York City (October 2012).

The DWACT also had importance in a water outage that affected all CDC campuses in Atlanta. The afteraction meetings with officials from DeKalb County, Georgia, allowed us to gain new insight into the needs of local communities in these kinds of events. The new edition contains a number of updates within the text, as well as new pages to address gaps and enhance its usefulness. Below is a list of the new content in this edition.

* Just-in-Time Planning and Response for Water Advisories: A quick guide to help water utilities that haven't had a chance to preplan and address their most pressing communication priorities in the event of an unexpected water advisory. …

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