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Checking water supply – Drug-resistant diseases a worry

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Boroughs-Wellcome Fund have provided the state with $511,267 in grants to test for harmful bacteria in the water supplies of counties flooded by Hurricane Floyd, the Raleigh News & Observer reported July 19.

Last September, Hurricane Floyd dumped 20 inches of rain on Eastern North Carolina only days after Hurricane Dennis had produced 10 inches. The flooding caused the widespread release of toxic chemicals and human and animal waste into the environment.

State officials took immediate measures to protect people’s health, but have admitted that the possible long-term effects of the flooding are not known.

After the floods, researchers identified 1,500 contaminated drinking water wells. The wells were decontaminated, but even afterwards not all were found to be safe for drinking. With the grant money, researchers will be able to test wells further, and for different kinds of microbes.

The major health concern is gastroenteritis. Authorities are also concerned, however, that drug-resistant organisms from animal farms – where antibiotics are commonly used as a growth stimulant – may have escaped into the water.

The project is a between the University of North Carolina Schools of Medicine and Public Health and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. It will continue for a year.

For full story, go to the News & Observer.

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