Third World USA: Kids in Wisconsin dont have clean, safe drinking water

Ive written about noroviruses a few times on ERV.  Theyre insidious little bugs that hide on door handles and food utensils (... and food...) and if you ingest them, you poop.  A lot.  Like I have said before, any time you hear about a ton of people getting sick on a cruise ship, you can bet it was probably because of norovirus.

If you get sick at home, you are pooping into a toilet (obviously).  That poop goes into the cities water supply, is treated with various chemicals/UV light/etc to kill viruses/bacteria/etc, then put back into the worlds water supply.  That water you drink out of the tap has likewise been treated various ways, so everyone doesnt get norovirus over and over and over and over just from drinking a glass of water.  That treatment step before it gets back into your house is especially important for people who get their water from ground wells-- You dont know that water was treated properly from the facility that released it (human, farm animal, etc), so you treat it before it goes out to customers.

That is, unless you are a community in Wisconsin that does not treat water going into homes, and wont because the Republican legislature squashed attempts to mandate the water be treated.

What is the net effect of that?

Viruses in Non-Disinfected Drinking Water from Municipal Wells and Community Incidence of Acute Gastrointestinal Illness

Adenovirus.  Enterovirus.  Norovirus.  Hepatitis A.  Rotavirus.  In a quarter of the water samples tested.  In four months, there were 1843 GI 'events' (extreme poopage) in the households enrolled in the study.  Surprise surprise, when norovirus viral load of the water was high, the incidence of GI 'events' was high.

People in Wisconsin are getting sick from drinking tap water.

So, duh, make water facilities treat their water.


Rep. Erik Severson (R-Star Prairie), an emergency room physician, lauded the rigor of the study, but said the results shouldn't mean mandatory disinfection.

"It goes back to choice for the community," Severson said. "The communities have to make the decision."

In some cases, taxpayers might be willing to put up with an occasional day off from work or a case of diarrhea to avoid paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in costs in upgrades per household, he said.

You need to 'check your privilege', Dr. Severson.  A 'day off work' when youre pooping your guts out is not exactly a 'day off work'.  Its a sick day.  And if you are living pay-check-to-pay-check, a 'day off work' is something you cant afford.  Americans go to work sick all the time because of this (or they just dont have sick/vacation days at all), especially in this economy.  If you are the head of the household, you dont have time for 'a day off work' to poop.  And its not just a 'day off work'.  You shed virus for days after you feel better.  Which means if you take a 'day off work' instead of a few, you go to work and likely infect your coworkers.  How much money do companies lose from these little norovirus outbreaks?  When numerous employees are taking a 'day off work' to poop?

And then there is this little bit of info from the study:

Estimates from the period 1 NoV-GI model for children less than five years old suggest that norovirus-contaminated drinking water was responsible for 63% to 44% (calculated from means and medians, respectively) of the AGI in this young age group.

Depending on the metric you use-- about 50% of the GI events in kids, babies less than 5 years old, were caused by unsafe drinking water.

Hmmm.  What is one of the leading causes of death in infants world-wide, Dr. Severson?  Lets think.  Lets think real hard.  Could it be diarrhea?  Maybe?  Its not just adults taking a 'day off work'.  Its babies getting infected who are at risk of dying.  Dying from drinking tap water in WISCONSIN.  Certainly this isnt the developing world, but what at the medical expenses of these 50% of GI events being NEEDLESSLY caused by drinking water?  How many of the parents who have to take their babies to the ER for rehydration dont have medical insurance?  Where do their bills get passed?  To the taxpayers.

So, instead of spending money on treating drinking water properly-- we are going to spend more money after people get sick to take a 'day off' and medical bills.

Thats a great plan there, Dr. Severson.

What a joke.  A shitty, shitty joke.



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Some context is useful in thinking about this issue. According to the study, 77 million people in the US use home water supplies that are not treated or not treated to reduce viruses by 99.99%. In other words, just under 25% of the US population.

Some conclusions to be drawn from that:

1) This is not a Wisconsin issue.
2) It is plausible that the overall disease burden is just not that great, given that 25% of the population is living under these conditions without the type of effects seen in the developing world from unsafe drinking water (where for instance, diarrhea is a leading killer of children under 5)

By Tim Ogden (not verified) on 05 Jun 2012 #permalink

I get queasy when I drink tap water. Shit is nasty. I always buy water from the store.

I think that you misread the statistics in the paper.

Only 20 million people in the US drink water from public water sources that are untreated and only 25% are contaminated.(Some might not be contaminated just because they get their water from sources that don't have septic runoff etc...)

So we're actually talking about more like 5 million people. Or 1.6% of the population.

The other 57 million drink water from sources that are treated but not treated sufficiently to meet the goal that the papers' authors would prefer.

Maybe the disease burden for the 57 million is not that great, but for the 5 million, it pretty clearly is. That is exactly what this paper proves: If your water is contaminated, it is likely to make you sick.

Welcome to the New Third World, USA.

Abbie, do you know if the recent website changes made it so that the feed I've been using to catch new posts no longer functions? I can't recall seeing this pop up in my feeds...

By Stephen Bahl (not verified) on 05 Jun 2012 #permalink

Tim, NYC does not need to treat it waters because over one hundred years ago, NYC and numerous political entities protected the watershed in the Catskills. Likewise The San Francisco Bay Area doesn't need to treat their water because the water comes from the Hetch Hetchy and the watershed is protected. There's about 30% of those 77 million in those two communities. Wisconsin doesn't have that luxury. Their watershed is unprotected due to numerous dairy farms and other agriculture. So, this is a Wisconsin problem, and the overall disease burden is unnecessary risk.
Oh and having lived in the developing world during my military career, I know from experience you don't need to drink the water to get sick from it. Bathing, dish-washing, or a host of numerous activities can provide you with a wonderful day on the flight-line.

My water comes from a local aquafir, and is untreated. Everyone , up till the past 5 years, used a private well, located on one's property...Certain parts of the town has slowly been getting a "town" system... the town system is a bunch of pipes tied into the local wellfield, then you tie your house pipes into them...
and..we have no formal waste/waste water facilities.....All used water drains from the house into either a leach pit, or tight tank in the back yard...

the only rule being a drinking well must be 100 feet away from a septic pit... YUMMY, want a drink?

actually, mine is very good as we put on a de-sal and extensive filter system...

By mary (abbie's ilk) (not verified) on 05 Jun 2012 #permalink

{conspiracy mode}
More people sick means more visits to the ER means more patients for Dr. Severson means more income.
{/conspiracy mode}

Where's the Prison Planet people when you need them?

James 2:24

Dr. Severson probably gets his water from his private well...

Yet another liberal barbarian hell bent on depriving the good people of Wisconsin their God given right to spend a few days without pay doubled over with cramps on a toilet shooting bloody waste from both ends. It is a fine way to exercise those abdominal muscles and lose weight . And whatever you lose not going to work you pretty much make up by not spending money on food or gas.

The big question here is why you hate America and its God given freedoms?

I had higher thoughts about USA. I thought you would at the very least make sure you all had clean drinking water for everyone. Isn't it embarrassing?

And how can Republicans do things like this and then say it's the best country god ever gave humankind?

By FlickingYourSwitch (not verified) on 08 Jun 2012 #permalink