One of the five important categories of water contaminants is biological. Biological contaminants in water by and large are invisible to the naked eye, so a perfectly clear glass of water may contain biological contaminants. Some of these contaminants are relatively harmless but others can be deadly.
We have all read about Legionnaire’s Disease, E-Coli and cholera. Any you may even have read about Cryptosporidium – a biological contaminant that sickened more than 400,000 in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1993, an event called the largest contamination of its type in the USA.
You may have read about Avian Flu, and H1N1 viruses. These too could become contaminants in water.
While all of the above examples may have been of “natural” occurrence, authorities are increasingly concerned that biological contaminants could be used by terrorists as a method of attacking specific targets (maybe government leaders, or a defense contractor) or a population at large.
The problem with monitoring a biological event from water contamination is that until now there is not a “real-time” detection method to determine whether the water is contaminated. This is because the methods used to determine the presence or absence of a biological threat in the water are a series of tests that typically take hours if not a day or more to confirm. In that time contaminated drinking water is likely to have been distributed to thousands if not tens of thousands of consumers who become exposed before the problem is known.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) require the medical community to report incidents of illness that are beyond the norm. Thus in the case of Milwaukee’s contamination hundreds, and then thousands of people can down with symptoms and only then did the authorities try to find the source of the problem. To the 104 people who died, help came way too late.
So what is “Water Biosecurity”? It is what steps need to be taken to ensure that populations of a species are protected from drinking water that is biologically hazardous. It doesn’t apply just to humans. If you Google “Water Biosecurity” you will be amazed at the diversity of the documents found. Most seem to be for other species. There are many procedures and documents published to ensure Water Biosecurity for chickens and poultry. For horses and for fish (such as salmon and tuna populations) and farm animals.
There’s plenty going on too to protect the population at large – or more specifically, how to respond once an attack has been identified.
Most people don’t give Water Biosecurity much thought, but it is important in this increasingly insecure and unpredictable world we live in.
For years our family has had Water Biosecurity. We all have water distillers in our homes and at work. We drink steam-distilled pure water and make our coffee and reconstituted juices from it. We cook in it. We feed it to our pets. We know that if ever a biological event with our water occurs, we have already put in place our Water Biosecurity System.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you why steam-distillation provides Water Biosecurity.