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Public Water Supply Distribution Systems: Assessing and Reducing Risks - First Report
rials and drinking water during mains breaks and during the installation, rehabilitation, and repair of water mains and appurtenances is a high priority issue because there have been many documented instances of significant health impacts from drinking water contamination associated with pipe failures and maintenance activities.
Improperly maintained and operated distribution system storage facilities. Several documented waterborne disease outbreaks and the potential for contamination due to the large number of these facilities makes this a high priority distribution system water quality maintenance and protection issue.
Control of water quality in premise plumbing. Virtually every problem identified in potable water transmission systems can also occur in premise plumbing, and some are magnified because of premise plumbing characteristics and the way in which water is used in residences. Health risks associated with premise plumbing are hard to assess because the majority of health problems are likely to be sporadic, unreported cases of waterborne disease that affect single households. Waterborne disease outbreaks due to premise plumbing failures in residential buildings have been documented.
Distribution system operator training. Training of drinking water distribution system operators traditionally has focused on issues related to the mechanical aspects of water delivery (pumps and valves) and safety. System operators are also responsible for ensuring that conveyance of the water does not allow degradation of water quality, and it is important that they receive adequate training to meet this responsibility.
Medium priority issues are those where existing data suggest that the health risks are low or limited to sensitive populations. Issues where there were insufficient data to determine the magnitude of the health risk were also classified as medium priority.
Biofilm Growth. Although biofilms are widespread in distribution systems, the public health risk from this source of exposure appears to be limited to opportunistic pathogens that may cause disease in the immunocompromised population. Some data suggest that biofilms may protect microbial pathogens from disinfection, but there are few studies directly linking health effects to biofilms.
Loss of Disinfectant Residual. The loss of disinfectant residual caused by increased water age and nitrification is considered a medium priority concern because it is an indirect health impact that compromises the biological integrity of the system and promotes microbial regrowth.
Intrusion. Intrusion from pressure transients is a subset of the cross-connection and backflow issue. It has associated health risks, and is therefore an important distribution system water quality maintenance and protection issue. There are insufficient data to indicate whether it is a substantial health risk, however.