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Renew the Savings Clause: protect water supply

COVD-19 still wreaks havoc in Florida, but South Floridians are engaged in a battle for our health and safety on another front — water scarcity. While most residents do not worry about their water supply as long as they get water when they turn on their tap, it is not guaranteed. On Thursday, Sept. 24, a subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and water management in Florida. The hearing was held as lawmakers are considering the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

U.S Rep. Brian Mast wants to pass legislation in the WRDA that would drastically alter Lake Okeechobee’s regulation schedule in an attempt to curb toxic algae blooms in our coastal estuaries. Mast’s proposal would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to drain Lake Okeechobee’s crucial water supply to unprecedented low depths during the dry season. This would be a major departure from the Savings Clause, the provision in the WRDA that has safeguarded South Florida’s water supply for 20 years.

The continued debate surrounding the management of our water and its impact on our health and safety is important to all of us. As these crucial conversations happen remotely from Washington, D.C., Tallahassee and our regional water management district, it is important to find solutions to environmental problems that benefit all citizens and communities, not just the one with the loudest political voice.

Originally enacted in 2000, CERP remains the primary vehicle for guaranteeing that our state’s greatest natural treasure remains viable for generations to come. CERP’s implementation was approved by the passage of federal legislation known as the Water Resources Development Act. This legislation was significant for a number of reasons. First, it provided baseline protections to South Florida’s water supply. Lawmakers in 2000 recognized the needs of water users in the area — most critically the more than 6 million residents in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Second, the passage of WRDA put politics aside and showed that it’s possible to do two big things at once — restore the Everglades while meeting all of the water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood control.

Unfortunately, politics has disrupted both sensibility and science in 2020. Instead of uniting to do big things, it has left us divided on how to create a safer environmental future. But now is the worst possible time to ignore sound water management practices. Water is more essential than ever, not only for everyday living but for life-saving hygiene. It’s necessary for our recovering businesses and the viability of our drinking water supply.

Politicians like Brian Mast are good at creating simplified talking points to address complex issues, but they fail to understand larger consequences beyond the boundaries of their own districts. Mast has loudly proclaimed that water-users permit rights should end when they infringe on the health and safety of others. That sounds reasonable but is simply untrue and not supported by science.

After Wildfires Stop Burning, a Danger in the Drinking Water

Two months after a wildfire burned through Paradise, Calif., in 2018, Kevin Phillips, then a manager for town’s irrigation district, walked from one destroyed home to another.

Burned out cars, the occasional chimney and the melted skeletons of washers and dryers were the only recognizable shapes.

“You started to actually be shocked when you saw a standing structure,” he said.

Mr. Phillips, now Paradise’s town manager, was following the team taking samples from intact water meters connected to homes that were now reduced to gray ash. He knew from the Tubbs Fire in 2017 that harmful toxins were likely in the water distribution system: Rapid action would be needed to protect people returning to the community from the dangers of toxins like benzene, which can cause nausea and vomiting in the short-term, or even cancer over time.

Wildfires, which turned skies a dim orange over cities from Seattle to Santa Cruz this year, are increasingly engulfing people’s homes, continuing to rage in California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado in recent weeks. But even when homes don’t burn, other dangers arise in the aftermath, and experts are focusing more attention on what happens to municipal water systems after a fire, when released toxins can get pulled into plumbing systems, and other damage can linger in pipes for years.

After the Paradise Fire, for example, tests reported in a new study showed benzene levels in drinking water at 2,217 parts per billion. The Tubbs Fire led to levels as high as 40,000 parts per billion. California health authorities say 1 part per billion is dangerous over the long-term, and 26 parts per billion is dangerous for short-term exposure. And many other compounds that end up in water after fire can also create health risks.

“It’s hard enough having the pandemic restrictions,” said Angela Aurelia, a resident of Boulder Creek in Santa Cruz County, whose home was partially damaged in August. “And then you have a wildfire, and you lose access to your home and then we can’t even go back home because the water isn’t likely safe to use.”

Mr. Phillips and some others who work to ensure the water flowing into homes is safe say they are following guidelines that are not designed for this kind of disaster.

After a fire, water in houses and in the underlying pipes “can become contaminated with an array of volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds” at levels that exceed the regulatory limits set by the state of California as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency, said Amisha Shah, a water quality engineer at Purdue University. “It’s very clear it needs to be addressed.”

Volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, naphthalene and methylene chloride, have a low boiling point and can be dispersed into the air easily. Semi-volatiles, including chrysene and benzo(b)fluoranthene, have a higher boiling point but can be dispersed during, for example, a warm shower. Although not all of these compounds are harmful, some have been found to cause cancer in the

Traces of coronavirus found in Lake Superior water, researchers say

Traces of the novel coronavirus were found in water samples taken from Lake Superior beaches in Duluth, Minn., according to researchers with the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus.

Since July, researchers have collected water samples from eight different beaches in Duluth in an effort to better understand how the novel virus “acts in water and whether it can spread there,” the Star Tribune reported. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is “no evidence that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread to people through water” at oceans, lakes and other natural bodies of water, as well as pools, water playgrounds and hot tubs.)

"The research team describes the detection level at 100 to 1,000 copies per liter, or 10,000 times lower than levels observed in wastewater," the researchers said.

“The research team describes the detection level at 100 to 1,000 copies per liter, or 10,000 times lower than levels observed in wastewater,” the researchers said.
(iStock)

In September, the researchers found traces of SARS-Cov-2 for the first time in water samples from Park Point, the E. 42nd Avenue beach and Brighton Beach.

“The research team describes the detection level at 100 to 1,000 copies per liter or 10,000 times lower than levels observed in wastewater,” the researchers said, according to the Star Tribune.

CORONAVIRUS CAUSED SPIKE IN GOOGLE SEARCH FOR THIS SYMPTOM 

The source of the virus is unknown, per the newspaper. But lead study author Richard Melvin, an assistant professor in the department of biomedical sciences at the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Duluth campus, told local news outlet KARE11 that swimmers could be responsible, as those infected can shed the virus for up to a month even after their symptoms have bettered, he said.

“Understanding where to look for the virus is really key in how to deal with these types of infections in the future,” he said, echoing the CDC in saying there is currently no evidence that people can contract the virus through water. “Now knowing that we can find it in the lake water, it could be another indicator of the prevalence of the virus in the population that lives in that location.”

MAJORITY OF AMERICANS SAY FLU SHOT IS BEST PREVENTATIVE MEASURE, BUT ONLY THIS MANY WILL GET IT

Researchers will continue to test water samples through additional funding from the Minnesota Sea Grant, which initially provided $10,000 for the study, according to the Star Tribune, which noted that officials with the Minnesota Department of Health, as well as other experts, will assist in identifying the source of the virus found in the water samples.

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Trump says insulin is now so cheap, it’s ‘like water.’ It isn’t

President Trump made a number of claims about lowering drug prices during his debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden. Most were untrue. <span class="copyright">(Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times)</span>
President Trump made a number of claims about lowering drug prices during his debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden. Most were untrue. (Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times)

There was much to dislike in this week’s presidential debate — the lies, the rudeness, the inability of the White House incumbent to rise above the level of a cranky kindergartner.

For me, the low point came not when President Trump refused to condemn white supremacy, and not when he tore into the sons of Democratic candidate Joe Biden, but when he once again sought to convince the American people that he had single-handedly lowered the cost of prescription drugs.

Trump claimed that drug prices “will be coming down 80% or 90%” thanks to him.

He claimed that a series of executive orders have forced pharmaceutical companies to slash prices.

And the one that floored me: Trump claimed that the cost of insulin is now so low, it’s practically free.

“I’m getting it for so cheap, it’s like water,” he said. “You want to know the truth? So cheap.”

Like water.

“Saying that insulin is as cheap as water is a complete disconnect from reality,” said Vivian Ho, a healthcare economist at Rice University.

“For the overwhelming majority of the millions of Americans with diabetes who depend on insulin, the prices are outrageous,” she told me. “People have been dying because they can’t afford insulin.”

I don’t want to make this about me. This is about a country saddled with a former game-show host who believes he can say anything to advance his personal and political interests.

But as someone with Type 1 diabetes, who relies on daily insulin doses to stay alive, I found Trump’s remarks particularly offensive, even for him.

It may take some effort for many Americans to fact-check Trump’s claims that Mexico is paying for his border wall or that he’s accomplished more than all other presidents.

The high price of drugs — no ambiguity there. Stratospheric drug costs hit nearly every American family where they live.

Spending on prescription meds soared from $354 billion in 2009 to about $535 billion in 2018, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

This is an increase of 50% compared with 17% inflation over the same period. Drug spending is expected to approach $600 billion this year.

As for insulin, well, Trump is taking a modest improvement for a relatively small number of people with diabetes and presenting it as a political triumph for all.

What he was apparently referring to with that comment about insulin now being “like water” was an announcement in May from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that some (but not all) Medicare plans would cap monthly insulin co-payments by seniors at $35.

This won’t begin until next year. It also will affect fewer than half the estimated 7.4 million Americans with diabetes who use insulin, leaving everyone else to continue paying as much as $300 per vial, which in many

Brain-Eating Microbe Found In Texas Town’s Water System Following Boy’s Death

KEY POINTS

  • A 6-year-old boy died in early September from an infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba
  • Three of the 11 samples collected confirmed the presence of the naegleria fowleri microbe in Lake Jackson’s water system
  • Officials warned residents to not drink tap water directly and boil their water before use

The presence of a brain-eating parasite that led to the death of a 6-year-old boy was found in the water system of a Texas town near Houston. Officials said it will take at least 60 days to completely disinfect the water system.

Health officials started collecting water samples to conduct tests after the death of Josiah McIntyre in Lake Jackson, Texas, in early September. Three of the 11 samples collected tested positive for the naegleria fowleri microbe, Lake Jackson City Manager Modesto Mundo told Associated Press on Monday.

On Sept. 25, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) alerted the Brazosport Water Authority (BWA) about the presence of the microbe in its water system, prompting BWA to issue a warning in eight cities including Lake Jackson, Freeport, Angleton, Brazoria, Richwood, Oyster Creek, Clute, and Rosenberg.

The residents were asked not to use tap water for any reason except to flush toilets. The advisory was later canceled for the other communities, but not for Lake Jackson, a city of more than 27,000, where the authority’s water treatment plant was located. A day later, the warning was lifted for Lake Jackson residents, but they were still urged to boil the water before using it.

Mundo said the city’s water utility is working to replace any “old water” in its system with freshwater, thereby disinfecting and purging the system of the naegleria fowleri parasite. “We’ll be doing that for a 60-day period,” Mundo told the AP.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, naegleria fowleri is a free-living microscopic amoeba commonly found in warm freshwater and soil. It is known to infect people when contaminated water enters the body through nose and travels to the brain, causing a fatal disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis. The infection typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in lakes and rivers, as well as through contaminated tap water.

Bacteria Bacteria, as seen under a microscope. Photo: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Diabetic Americans dispute Trump’s claim he made insulin so cheap ‘it’s like water’

That came as a shock to the Americans who shell out hundreds of dollars a month on insulin, a number of whom posted triple-digit pharmacy bills to social media immediately after the president’s assertion.

“I looked at my husband and slapped my leg and said, ‘Can you believe that!’ ” said Tiffany Garrioch, 36, a public health nurse and educator in Minnesota with Type 1 diabetes, who watched the debate with her family.

“We’re already an underserved and highly vulnerable population,” she said. “To hear the president say it costs as much as water makes us look like we’re crybabies or liars.”

Insulin costs her $36.76 a day, she said. In 2008, it was $9.81.

Insulin prices have ballooned over two decades, including during the Trump administration. A subset of people enrolled in Medicare drug plans that cap payments at $35 a month are insulated from those costs. Otherwise a patient with diabetes can spend hundreds of dollars on a monthly insulin supply.

A few decades ago, people could pay about $20 per month for insulin, said Jeremy Greene, a primary care physician and medical historian at Johns Hopkins University. “Insulin prices have been a travesty of American pharmaceutical policy.”

The only way Trump’s statement could not be anything but an “out-and-out fabrication,” Greene said, is if insulin were compared to some of the priciest bottled water on Earth — such as the liquid harvested twice a year from melting Arctic polar ice that the doctor once spotted for sale in a Norway airport.

“The cost of insulin is still high for the majority of Americans who need it to survive,” said Laura Friedman, vice president for federal payment policy at the American Diabetes Association, which supports insurance co-pay caps and Medicaid expansion to help people with diabetes afford the drug.

“The ADA and the millions who are living with diabetes look forward to the day when insulin is affordable so that people can stop suffering from the consequences of dangerous practices like rationing insulin due to exorbitant costs,” she said in a statement.

About 1 in 4 patients with diabetes report underusing insulin because of financial pressure, which “effectively means that they are trying to make their insulin stretch, or having difficulty buying groceries or paying utility bills,” said physician Jing Luo, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing.

Switching to cheaper but less effective forms of insulin, or rationing it, can be devastating. People with diabetes can suffer strokes, kidney failure or death without sufficient insulin.

“The consequence of the untenable price of insulin can be measured in body counts,” Greene said.

Three companies — Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi — dominate the market for insulin.

Insulin sold by Novo Nordisk, under the brand name NovoLog, was priced at $40 per vial in 2001 and rose to $289 in 2018, as The Washington Post reported last year. Eli Lilly’s Humalog insulin was $275 a vial as of last year, up from

Texas officials say it could take 2-3 months to make water safe from brain-eating amoebas

Texas officials on Tuesday said it could take two to three months to disinfect the water in Lake Jackson after a brain-eating amoeba killed a 6-year-old. Officials stressed, however, that becoming infected with the amoeba is rare.

“The path forward for the citizens of Lake Jackson is not going to be one that’s short,” Texas Commission on Environmental Quality executive director Toby Baker said at a press conference. “We have to get through the boil water first, which could take two to three weeks, after that we have to get chlorine levels to a state that can burn the entire system, scour the system, and kill the amoebas. That could take up to an additional 60 days.”

Baker added that the CDC has said it will test the city’s water once the process is complete to make sure it’s safe. He also said agencies will check to make sure unfiltered water isn’t entering the water system in areas the city is unaware of.

Baker and other officials, including Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, said water in surrounding areas is safe. Abbott also said that “all information points to this being isolated.”

Josiah McIntyre died earlier this month after being infected with the brain-eating parasite Naegleria fowleri. McIntyre’s mother said he became ill with flu-like symptoms first, but his condition soon deteriorated to the point where he was having trouble standing and communicating, CBS Dallas/Fort Worth reports.

Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration on Sunday after testing found the brain-eating amoeba in the water supply.

On Saturday, environmental officials lifted a warning for Lake Jackson to stop using tap water because it might be tainted with a deadly brain-eating microbe, but warned the water should be boiled before being consumed. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also advised residents to prevent water from getting into their nose when bathing, showering, swimming and washing their face.

Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner John Hellerstedt said Tuesday that the disease that killed McIntyre is rare, and that the only way to get it so to have infected water go up into your sinuses “and basically then lodge there at the top of the sinuses and work its way from there through a membrane … that goes into the brain.”

“There is no other way to get it,” he said. “You cannot get that infection from drinking the water.”

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Purging water system of brain-eating microbe to take 60 days

Updated


LAKE JACKSON, Texas (AP) — A Houston-area official said it will take 60 days to ensure a city drinking water system is purged of a deadly, microscopic parasite that doctors believed killed a boy and that led to warnings for others not to drink tap water.

Lake Jackson City Manager Modesto Mundo said Monday that three of 11 samples of the city’s water indicated preliminary positive results for the naegleria fowleri microbe. Mundo said Lake Jackson residents are still urged to boil their tap water before using it.


One sample, Mundo said, came from the home of Josiah McIntyre, the 6-year-old boy whom doctors said died earlier this month after being infected with the brain-eating parasite.

Maria Castillo, Josiah’s mother, said Monday that her son first started showing flu-like symptoms. But those quickly worsened to the point where he had trouble standing and communicating.



“We found out that it was, most likely this amoeba that was causing all of these symptoms,” Castillo said outside her home, in front of a yard sign that showed a picture of her son.

Doctors took measures to alleviate swelling in the child’s brain and tried to save him.


It was hard for Josiah’s mother to accept the death of a child so full of life.

“Josiah loved to be outside and he loved to be with his sister and his cousin,” Castillo said “He was a lovable little boy and loved everybody he was around.”

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality warned the Brazosport Water Authority late Friday of the potential contamination of its water supply by the deadly microscopic flagellate. The TCEQ has advised the community to flush out its water distribution