Following are a selection of articles and excerpts of articles dealing with better health using water, the components of water and the dangers of poor water quality.  Select the one you are interested in or read them all.

Table of Contents

  1. Cryptosporidium?
  2. Chlorinated Water & Bladder Cancer
  3. Chlorine & Heart Disease
  4. Anatomy of Back Problems
  5. The Flow of Water
  6. The Structure of Water
  7. Lax oversight raises tap water risks
  8. Miracles of Water - Amazing Secrets for Health & Wellness

Cryptosporidium - What you should know about it.                   by Fred Pontius in Water Technology September 1994

Cryptosporidium, first described in 1907, wasn't recognized as a cause of human illness until 1976.  It's a protozoan parasite that can infect a variety of animals.  At least four species are recognized; with Cryptosporidium parvum (C. parvum) primarily responsible for clinical illness in humans and animals.

In the environment, Cryptosporidium exists as a resilient, infectious, round oocyst about 4 to 6 microns in diameter.  The oocyst is the "suitcase" for the infectious material inside.  When ingested in drinking water, oocysts pass through the stomach into the small intestine.  The oocysts split open, releasing sporozoites which invade the cells lining in the gastrointestinal tract.  Infested cells lining the intestine appear normal, but their ability to absorb water and nutrients is severely impaired. 

Cryptosporidium is widespread in the environment.  Oocysts have been found in rivers and streams, lakes and reservoirs, raw and treated sewage, and treated surface water.  Once introduced into water, the oocyst can survive for weeks even at low temperatures.  The organism has been found in many domestic animals and wildlife.

Cryptosporidium may not necessarily be found in every surface water supply and when the organism is found in a particular supply concentrations can vary greatly.  All surface water supplies are at risk for contamination, though some sources may be at greater risk than others. Groundwater is typically free from the oocysts because of the filtering action of soil, but groundwater under direct influence of surface water is susceptible to contamination.

Disease symptoms of Cryptosporidiosis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, occasional vomiting and low grade fever. Typically symptoms last 10-14 days, may linger off and on up to 30 days and can persist for extended periods.  Some people infected as a result of an outbreak in Milwaukee, WI, in April 1993, were still experiencing disease symptoms one year later.  The disease can be fatal for immunosuppressed people. In severe cases, the disease can develop into a prolonged, life-threatening cholera-like illness.

The number of oocysts that must be ingested to cause infection in humans isn't known.  Studies indicate that as few as 10 or even less than 10 oocysts, can be infectious to humans, but additional studies are being conducted by the EPA. 

Tests to detect Cryptosporidium are difficult procedures and few appropriately trained personnel are available to conduct them.  Interpreting the public health significance of monitoring data is equally difficult.  An absence of oocysts doesn't mean they were never present or never will be present. 

Cryptosporidium oocysts resist chlorinating.  Disinfecting of C. parvum oocysts with chlorine or monochloramine at typical treatment concentrations has almost no effect, even after several hours contact time, and chlorine dioxide has been only somewhat effective.  Ozone is the most effective disinfectant against C. parvum oocysts; it can inactivate the oocysts completely if applied properly.  Filtration and watershed protection are the only conventional control practices available.  Greater than 97 percent removal of oocysts can be achieved with proper coagulation and filtration.  Turbidity is traditionally used to monitor filter performance, but it's a poor indicator of oocyst removal, particularly for source waters with turbidity levels less than 5 NTU's.  Municipal filtration plants should have an operational turbidity goal of less than 0.1 NTU to effectively remove oocysts. 

Cryptosporidium isn't currently regulated but is on the U.S. EPA's drinking water priority list for possible regulation.

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'Strong evidence' links bladder cancer to chlorinated water                           by PATRICK YOUNG Newhouse News Service

WASHINGTON -  Long term drinking of chlorinated water appears to increase a person's risk of developing bladder cancer as much as 80%, according to a major new study scheduled for publication later this month. The study, which will be published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, has raised concerns both inside and outside the federal government about how the public will react to the findings.

It is the latest in a series of studies since the mid-1970s to suggest a link between chlorinated water and bladder cancer, but the first in which people with the disease and people without were interviewed in depth about their water consumption. Chlorine itself is not believed to be the problem.  Scientists suspect that if the cancer link is true, the actual cause of the bladder cancers is a group of chemicals that form as a result of reactions between the chlorine and natural substances and pollutants in the water.  "If it is chlorine by-products, and we do not know that for a fact, there are ways to reduce them without stopping chlorination, Cantor said.

Findings from the new study are based on 1,630 people diagnosed with bladder cancer and 3,027 cancer-free individuals.  They indicate the risk of developing the malignancy is related to both the amount of chlorinated water and the number of years it was consumed.

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Chlorine & Heart Disease? from Health Freedom News March 1981 & February 1987

Ironically, the very process by which we cleanse our water of infectious organisms - chlorination - is responsible for creating carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances, even from otherwise innocent chemicals in water.  Worse, the chlorine can combine with those same dangerous pollutants in water that we've described to form such carcinogens as chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, bischloroethane, and other chemicals collectively labeled trihalomethanes.

At the start of the 1980's, more than 300 different organic chemicals had already been identified in American drinking water.  Most of these are likely contributors to the ever-increasing rate of malignancy among our populace: from one in five people coming down with cancer ten years ago to one in four today.  Over 800,000 U.S. citizens are cancer victims each year.  Chronic exposure to carcinogens from drinking one and a half or more quarts of municipal tap water every day of your life provides a significant cumulative health hazard. 

Joseph M. Price, M.D., attending physician at Saginaw General Hospital, Saginaw, Michigan, says "In the process of atherogenesis, chlorine is the essential agent (atherogenesis does not occur to a clinically significant degree in the absence of chlorine, regardless of diet and other contributing factors).  "Chlorine is the greatest crippler and killer of modern times", he declares.  "It is an insidious poison.  Most medical researchers were led to believe it was safe, but now we're learning the hard way that all the time we thought we were preventing epidemics of one disease, we were creating another.  Two decades after the start of chlorinating our drinking water in 1904, the present epidemic of heart trouble and cancer began."

Furthermore, Dr. Price strongly suggest that senility of the aged really is a combination disease with a single cause chlorine.  The blood flow to the brain becomes impaired not only by the development of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries feeding the brain but also by a direct impairment of the micro-circulation of the brain itself - a second and distinct result of chlorine ingestion.

The potent cancer-causing trihalomethanes, created by the chlorination process itself, come about when chlorine combines with natural organic matter such as decaying vegetation.  Then, trihalomethane chemicals such as chloroform and bromoform are formed and able to permeate a city's water system. They are known also to be prime causative agents for athrosclerosis and its inevitable result, the heart attack or stroke.

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Anatomy of Back Problems by Valerie H. Free - The Science of Living Water, Complimentary Healing.

In America, over 40 million people suffer from back problems.  It is estimated that back pain results in health costs of $80 billion a year for these sufferers.  Every year, in America alone, over 250,000 people are operated on - often for a second or third time.  According to Dr. Batmanghelidj, many of these back problems start with trouble in the discs in the spinal cord.

The spinal column is made up of twenty four vertebrae.  Lodged between these twenty four vertebrae are twenty three cushioning discs.  These discs are the spinal column's spacing and shock absorbers.  Inside the nucleus of the disc is a gelatinous material containing water and salt.  When the discs are fully hydrated and firm, they are effective wedges, between the vertebrae, particularly in the lumbar region, reducing the demand on the back muscles.  The nucleus of the disc absorbs 75 percent of weight of the structure above it and also dulls the shock waves that travel upward through the spine. 

However, if the discs are not fully hydrated, they become thin and unable to effectively pack the joint.  This condition forces the joints to become weight-bearing , eventually causes inflammation and bone damage.  As such, it becomes the increasing responsibility of the back muscles to keep the body upright, causing muscle strain and, subsequently, pain.  Between the disc and the bone plate of the vertebrae lies a layer of cartilage whose gliding ability can be substantially diminished by dehydration and further contributes in inflammation and pain. 

Before damage occurs, nature's solution is to hydrate the discs with water while the weight of the body is off the discs during sleep.  To accomplish this, there must be enough free water in the region of the discs for rehydration.  Dr. Batmanghelidj in his book, How to Deal with Back Pain and Rheumatoid Joint Pain, provides information, insights and exercises for back and joint pain sufferers.  He observes, pain killers can temporarily mask the pain, but they do not repair the cause while water often can.  Satisfying the body's need for water should be the first treatment before chemical intervention.

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The Flow of Water and Cells. Complementary Healing

As we learn more about the effect of electro-magnetic patterns on the human body, we realize the importance of removing negative imprinting and restoring positive energy to the water we consume.  Water is the most important source of energetic conduction in the body.  The water we consume can change the electrical system of our body.  For example, distilled water is not a conductor of electricity in or out of the body.

The cell is the basic unit of life.  Although size and shape of cells vary with function, every cell contains a nucleus and cytoplasm.  The nucleus contains DNA and serves as the cell's control center.  The cytoplasm is a jelly-like substance, 85% water, which contains enzymes, amino acids and other molecules needed for cell function.  Most cells have a membrane which contains protein receptors that regulate the flow of substances in and out of the cell.

Most of us have been told that the foods we eat provide raw materials for energy in the body.  That is true, but there are other sources also.  Within the cell, microscopic organisms, mitochondria, are intimately involved in the production of energy in the form of ATP by utilizing specific proteins which are embedded in the watery matrix of the cytoplasm.  Like a life energy battery, ATP, powers cell growth, cell division and the manufacturing and secretion of final products of each particular cell type.

Water can also play other important roles in the body.  For example, water can behave as a solvent, a re-hydrator and a conductor of electrical and magnetic fields.  Electrically charged water can also behave like an antioxidant.

There is no substitute of a healthy balanced diet, rich antioxidant materials such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, as well as other nutrients and minerals.  However, these substances are not necessarily the best source of those free electrons that can block the oxidation of healthy tissue. 

Micro-clustered and structured water, which is slightly alkaline and has smaller clusters, passes easily through the cell membrane where it contributes electrons to quench free radicals, thus reducing their damage to cells.

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) analysis reveals that tap water and well water consist of clusters of ten to thirteen H2O molecules.  Several processes can reduce these clusters to half their normal size, reduce the surface tension and make them more biologically active. 

Micro-clustered and structured water is capable of passing through the semi-permeable cell membranes with greater ease than regular water.  Consequently, it has the ability to hydrate more quickly and effectively.  All cell functioning is improved by hydration.  Brain cells are particularly responsive to minute changes in their water content.  The presence of beneficial vibrational and magnetic field patterns can add to the benefits being distributed to every cell in the body. 

As we age, the collagen matrix beneath the skin breaks down and our bodies become increasingly dehydrated as shown in the hand of a grandfather compared to the well hydrated, absorbent skin of a child.  One of the easiest ways to see the effects of structured or micro-clustered water with low surface tension is to spray some on your hand.  If your hand is free of creams, water will not bead.  It will pass into the skin cells with little or no wetness on the surface of the skin.

Seeds and plant cells also respond well to bio-energized waters.  Used in agriculture, this water improves both yield and the quality of the crops without any chemical fertilizer.  Produce sprayed or soaked with this water, retains a fresher taste and lasts longer.  See the difference for yourself by soaking only half of the fruits or vegetables bought in the supermarket in clustered/structured water.  Flowers remain fresh twice as long when sprayed and placed in a vase filled with energized water. Click below for more information on devices which structure and micro-cluster water.

 Pure Charge Energetic Spa       Tri-Vortex Charger Plates       Water Magnets

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The Structure of Water Complimentary Healing - Energy Series

Water is a polar molecule having a positively charged side where the two hydrogen atoms are found and a negatively charged end where the oxygen atom is located.  The angle between the two hydrogen atoms with respect to the single large oxygen atom is 105 degrees.  This unique polarized structure of the water molecule allows it to create hydrogen bonding between various water molecules, much like small magnets are linked together with the alternative north and south poles attracted to each other. 

Water then forms clusters of charged molecules which form distinct structures and can store information.  In fact, water can be viewed as a large liquid crystal analogous to the liquid crystals which are found on a digital wrist watch display.  This hydrogen bonding of water creates it unique characteristics important for life such as its surface tension, its heat storage capacity, and its greatest density at 4 degrees centigrade so that ice actually floats on water at 0 degrees centigrade.

More importantly, within the structured bonding of water molecules, information important for living systems can be stored.  Water molecule structured patterns constantly change yet form resonances which can be determined with sophisticated modern infared spectroscopy to determine the cluster structures within the water.

Electrically alive water has unique information structures imbedded within the living water matrix which in turn affect living systems when people drink such water.  This water is created by various means including magnetics and other structuring approaches.  Indeed, water has a memory which has been demonstrated by Dr. Jacques Benveniste, who showed that water, even at levels where no physical molecules of the original substance are still present, continues, to have biologically active capacities and can effect cells as well as isolated physiological systems.

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Lax oversight raises tap water risks

By Peter Eisler; Barbara Hansen; Aaron Davis
Wed., Oct. 21, 1998
FINAL EDITION USA Today
Section: NEWS
Page 15A

WASHINGTON -- When it comes to the nation's drinking water, there's no punishment for pollution.

Each day, millions of Americans turn on their tappharma and get water that exceeds legal limits for dangerous contaminants. Millions more get water that isn't treated or tested properly, so there's no telling if it's clean. Many people get sick. A few of them die.

And most of the time, nobody does anything about it.

A USA TODAY investigation finds that the federal and state programs charged with enforcing the nation's safe drinking water laws aren't working, undermined by inadequate funding, inaccurate data, a soft regulatory approach and weak political support. Even the worst violations of drinking water laws have just a 1 in 10 chance of drawing legal action by the government.

At the same time, powerful new pollutants imperil the water supply, from hard-to-kill bacteria to industrial and agricultural toxins. Yet water systems increasingly rely on aging pipelines, deficient treatment equipment and poorly trained operators to make the water safe.

USA TODAY did hundreds of interviews and undertook a computer analysis of millions of records from the nation's 170,000 regulated water systems covering 1993-97, from the largest serving 6.6 million people in New York City to tiny operations with just 25 customers, such as Hanks Trading Post in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Next year will be the 25th year that the Safe Drinking Water Act has been law. But the newspaper's investigation found that grave problems diminish its promise:

About 40,000 of the 170,000 water systems, serving about 58 million people, violated testing requirements and purity standards last year. About 9,500 water systems, serving 25 million people, had ''significant'' violations, which the Environmental Protection Agency defines as posing the ''most serious threats to public health.''
From 1994 through the start of 1997, only about 10% of all significant violations drew enforcement action from government regulators. In fact, fewer fines and lawsuits are imposed under safe drinking water laws than any other major environmental statute.

More than a quarter of all significant violators have been in that category for at least three years. Among systems with significant violations at the end of 1996, for example, 35% still were out of compliance as of Aug. 1 -- a year past the eight-month legal deadline to return to compliance or sign a binding agreement to do so.
Eleven states have yet to implement all of the Safe Drinking Water Act's contamination limits. At least 13 states don't meet federal guidelines dictating that they inspect water systems every three to five years. A half-dozen have not given their water programs the authority to levy fines.

The EPA has overlooked states' failure to uphold safe drinking water laws. It never has used its authority to take control of a state regulatory program, and the agency is more than a year behind in completing required assessments of the drinking water programs in at least 11 states.

The computer database that serves as the EPA's primary tool to monitor the 170,000 public water systems is so flawed that even the government acknowledges that, used alone, it's an inaccurate measure of which systems provide clean water from the tap.

None of this is to say that most Americans don't get clean water -- they do. The vast majority of people are served by large water systems with good records; most serious problems crop up in small systems.

Regulators and water system operators rightly note that the 40,000 water systems that violated safe drinking water laws in 1997 constitute less than a quarter of all systems nationwide. The 9,500 systems with ''significant'' violations make up only 6%.

But experts warn that the combination of poor enforcement and growing threats to water purity is bound to lead to trouble.

''The attitude is, 'Until there's a big body count, there's not a problem,' '' says James Elder, former head of the EPA's Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water. ''We haven't documented many major outbreaks, so everybody claims the (regulatory) system is working.''

New contamination threats

Most academic and government studies suggest that a million or so Americans suffer gastrointestinal sicknesses each year from bad drinking water, and as many as 1,000 may die. In some areas, water contamination is suspected in cancers, miscarriages and birth defects. And the growing number of people who live with weak immune systems -- chemotherapy patients, transplant recipients, people with AIDS -- means the toll is likely to rise.

But no one knows for sure.

The most common symptoms of waterborne illness, nausea and diarrhea, usually get blamed on stomach flus or bad food. So, while the government has for years listed contaminated drinking water as a top environmental health threat -- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with immune deficiencies should consider boiling all tap water -- there's been little call for strong regulation.

''Right now, we've got a sleepy (regulatory) program nationwide, and we have a public that just assumes it will get clean water,'' says Steven Walden of Texas' Water Utilities Division, a relatively aggressive oversight operation.

''But we've got . . . a lot of new threats to worry about,'' Walden adds. ''And with drinking water competing for resources with everything from roads to libraries . . . there's not much support for spending money to make (the program) work.''

Consequences are everywhere: For five years, Boston has failed to meet requirements that it filter its water; in DeKalb, Ill., the water has exceeded federal limits for radium since they were imposed 22 years ago; in Ottawa County, Ohio, the Gem Beach Utility Co. has refused since 1994 to meet treatment requirements for the water it draws directly from nearby Lake Erie.

Most water problems tend to be in places no one has heard of: little towns, mobile home parks, rest stops, private developments. Their smaller water systems are more likely to lack the equipment and staff needed to meet legal standards -- and more likely to escape regulators' attention.

The last time a major waterborne illness hit a big city was 1993, when a parasite in Milwaukee's water killed 111 people and made 403,000 sick. It remains the worst outbreak in modern U.S. history, but there have been others since, from Las Vegas to Austin, Texas, to Alpine, Wyo.

Americans are beginning to notice: A recent USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll found 47% of respondents won't drink water straight from the tap.

Congress and the Clinton administration have tried to address the concerns. They revamped the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996, providing more loans and grants to help water systems and state oversight programs comply with the law. Next year, utilities will start sending consumers detailed water quality reports.

''The law certainly has made the situation much better than it would be otherwise,'' says Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who helped shape many of its provisions. ''But we've got to push for stricter enforcement and greater commitment (to compliance). We still have very serious problems.''

Illness in a small town

If state regulators had been making the required inspections of the water system at The Corner Store in Groveland, N.Y., they would have seen an accident waiting to happen.

But they never came.

They never found that the popular convenience shop, which sold gas, beer, sandwiches and pizza, had a broken chlorinator and no filtration for the water from its shallow well. They never told the store's operators that the water system had to meet legal standards.

On June 22, 1996, John and Loretta Linsner paid the price.

The couple had The Corner Store cater a high school graduation party for their daughter, and bacteria from the store's water got into the food. Salmonella and Plesiomonas shigelloides, a rare tropical bug, poisoned the Linsners and more than 100 friends and family. They were racked by diarrhea and nausea.

''It was terrible,'' John Linsner says. ''All I could do was go from bed to the bathroom. I couldn't even walk. . . . Our (83-year-old) neighbor had to go to the hospital in an ambulance.''

The Linsners' story is typical: Small water systems serving 500 people or fewer account for 86% of all systems with significant violations of drinking water laws.

These systems can be in remote towns or in suburban developments, mobile home parks or other communities that haven't hooked up with major water supplies. They can serve small businesses, rest areas or public facilities such as schools and hospitals.

''In the big city, there's more (oversight) and money to spend on good water systems,'' says Susan Seacrest, formerly on EPA's National Drinking Water Advisory Board and now head of the Groundwater Foundation. ''Go to small towns, everything looks clean, but many have decrepit systems that no one pays attention to. Then you go to a farm or a little store with a shallow well and no treatment . . . and you better bring bottled water.''

In The Corner Store's case, the New York Department of Health, which regulates water systems, didn't even know there was a system they should have been checking. The agency hadn't registered it.

''The treatment certainly wasn't adequate for the kind of water source (the store) had,'' says Michael Burke, director of New York's Bureau of Public Water Supply. ''They should have been monitoring (for contaminants). They should have had an annual inspection.''

Investigators eventually tied the contamination to waste washed into the store's well from a poultry farm and manure-covered fields.

Burke says the total lack of oversight was an anomaly but concedes that state regulators have trouble keeping tabs on the smallest of New York's 10,000 water systems.

''Our problems,'' he says, ''are no different than the problems you're seeing nationally.''

In one respect, the Linsners got lucky: The bacteria that hit them can kill babies, elderly people and others with weak immune systems.

Now, the Linsners test their well water. They never drink water at campgrounds and avoid it in restaurants and rest areas. They even wonder about it at church socials.

''People say, 'Oh, we have good water. We won't have a problem,' '' Linsner says. ''But they don't know.''

A troubled law

The Safe Drinking Water Act is a tough one to follow -- and a tough one to enforce.

Passed in 1974, the law requires any water system serving 25 or more people to regularly test its water and comply with contamination limits.

But over time, the law has grown increasingly complex. It has been amended again and again to meet the new threats posed by tougher bacteria, industrial waste and agricultural runoff. Water systems, which were required to test for 13 contaminants, now must test and treat for more than 80 substances, from pesticides and fertilizers to such naturally occurring toxins as radon.

States are supposed to enforce the rules with their own oversight programs, empowered to go after lawbreaking water systems with orders, fines and lawsuits. The EPA is supposed to take action when a state does not -- and take over a state's water program if it consistently fails to do its job.

It's not happening. Why?

Money. Financial problems undermine drinking water laws at every level.
The nation's 55,000 water systems that serve residential communities need $12 billion in new equipment and pipelines to meet legal requirements, according to a 1997 EPA study.


''Some utilities willfully violate (drinking water rules) because they don't like the regulations, but usually it's a matter of not having resources'' to fix a problem, says Bevin Beaudet, past chief of Palm Beach County (Fla.) Water Utilities and a board member at the American Water Works Association, a major industry group.

Pursuing every violation is ''beyond the states' resources,'' adds Dave Spath, chief of California's drinking water division. ''We deal first with larger systems that have 'significant' problems. With smaller systems, which may have an equal public health risk but to a far smaller population . . . you get to whatever you can.''

State officials complain Congress doesn't provide the funds promised by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Federal grants typically pay 40% of state program costs; states say 75% is proper.

And EPA lacks the resources to step in when states fail. This year, the agency will devote $5.1 million and roughly 80 staff members to enforcing drinking water laws -- about a quarter of what it allots to policing air pollution.

Approach. Regulators often take a soft tack with lawbreaking water systems.
''The people who run these systems aren't polluters; Their interest is in providing good water,'' says Mike Keegan of the National Rural Water Association, which represents small systems. ''They shouldn't be treated like paint manufacturers or poultry operations.''

In fact, a 1997 EPA study found 4,258 water systems nationwide with a chronic history of significant violations of drinking water laws and found that most lacked needed equipment or operator expertise. Only 568, or 13%, were seen as ''recalcitrant,'' meaning they had no interest in compliance.

Lawsuits and fines ''are a last resort,'' says David Leland, head of Oregon's drinking water program and chief of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators. ''We take a more helpful approach. It's not the traditional idea that we have to hammer these folks because they're polluting.''

In 1997, states and the EPA issued fines against only 215 water systems for violations of safe drinking water laws. At the federal level, the EPA levied just $17,600 in administrative penalties nationwide. That's the lowest amount under any major environmental law and compares to $3 million in such fines filed against air pollutors.

Politics. Cities, towns and counties run a third of all regulated water systems. Many others -- private systems run by businesses, homeowners associations or resorts -- also have a public constituency.
So, if regulators order a system to buy required equipment or fine it for failing to meet a legal standard, it creates budget strains and tax burdens.

''Not infrequently, you get a call from a political official -- a governor, a member of Congress,'' says John DeVillars, EPA's New England regional administrator. ''They say, 'What are you doing? This isn't popular.' ''

DeVillars and other regulators believe drinking water laws can work, despite political fallout. But the toll is clear.

Eleven states haven't even implemented all the Safe Drinking Water Act's rules. The last of those rules should have been in place by mid-995.

California, for example, still lacks requirements that water systems check lead or copper contamination; Virginia hasn't adopted limits on chemical and radiological contaminants.

Yet the EPA has never taken over a drinking water program.

''The message is it's OK to violate the law,'' says Erik Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council. ''You can fill a telephone book with excuses, but the bottom line is we have water systems that are repeat, significant violators and they're getting off scot-free.''

was it the water?

In DeKalb, Ill., the notion that money and politics steer enforcement of drinking water laws does little to ease the pain of Kathleen and Lon Clark.

For 22 years, state studies found DeKalb's water has had up to twice the legal limit of radium, a naturally occurring, radioactive element linked to bone cancer, leukemia and other illnesses. Three years ago, the Clarks' 10-year-old son, Max, died of bone cancer. Medical science never will know what caused Max's illness.

But ''we'll always wonder if it was the water,'' says Kathleen Clark, an accountant, who blames officials' inaction for the questions that haunt her family. ''DeKalb should have been taking radium seriously all along.''

The story of how DeKalb and hundreds of other communities evade radium rules speaks worlds about the breakdown in enforcement of drinking water laws, pitting human health against budget concerns, science against politics.

In 1976, under Congress' orders, the EPA set a ''safe'' limit for radium -- one that, based on scientific estimates, would allow for no more than one radium-related death among every 10,000 people relying on a contaminated water supply.

In Illinois alone, about 80 water systems serving 322,000 people still exceed that limit.

State and local officials say they don't enforce the rule because, among other things, compliance is too costly: Scores of communities would need expensive treatment equipment. In DeKalb, pop. 35,000, costs would run over $8 million, or more than $230 per person.

Critics also cite continuing scientific debate over how high the radium limit should be.

''There's a question of cost vs. health risk,'' says Ronald Matekaitis, DeKalb's city attorney, who contends the radium threat doesn't justify the cleanup tab. ''You can always make everybody's environment safer, but how much money should you commit?''

Such questions prompted the EPA to agree in 1988 to review the radium standard -- a process now extended until 2000.

For now, the old standard remains in place, and the resulting wait-and-see has effectively meant that neither state officials nor regional EPA managers has pursued enforcement.

In DeKalb, however, that has upset many residents.

''I'm willing to pay a lot more in taxes for clean water than things like roads or parks,'' says Jim Lahey, a retired accounting professor. ''Health comes first.''

Lahey and 10 other residents sued DeKalb in 1996 to force compliance with radium rules for drinking water. Last year, an agreement ended the lawsuit without a trial, and the city has said it will meet the radium standard, but not until 2002.

Today, DeKalb blends its well water with cleaner supplies to lower radium levels, but even so, state estimates find that tap water still exceeds the limit by 50%.

Tough road ahead

State and federal regulators say the problems with enforcement of drinking water laws haven't gone unnoticed, and many hope the answers lie in Congress' 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act.

''In the last three or four years, we began to see (enforcement) actions on the part of the states drop off dramatically, and that was tremendous cause for concern,'' says Robert Perciasepe, who until August was the EPA's top administrator for water. ''There are problems that need to be dealt with. We're changing the system to address the underlying issues.''

But there already are indications that one of the changes seen as most important -- more money for water programs -- won't make much difference.

Federal funding for drinking water programs has climbed 30% since 1996, to $93.8 million this year.

The added federal funding is a step in the right direction, says Steven Gordon, president of the American Water Works Association and director of Detroit's water system. But it ''isn't going to help much.''

This year, for example, Michigan's share of that money ends up being about $30 million, Gordon says, compared with a ''capital budget for drinking water, just for Detroit, (at) about $2 billion. Those numbers aren't good.''

''The grants are up, but we're still way short,'' adds David Leland, the Oregon drinking water chief. ''We can only do what's required . . . to the tune of what the feds give us to run our program.''

And what is not required is a step many see as crucial to the success of drinking water laws: inspecting systems to catch problems before they occur.

Federal guidelines say states should perform ''sanitary surveys'' once every three years for larger water systems, once every five for others. But those are guidelines, and 13 states don't adhere to them.

Oregon regulators did 570 sanitary surveys from 1993-96. That would average out to one survey every 19 years for each of the state's 2,700 water systems, USA TODAY found.

Connecticut, Indiana, Washington and Alaska averaged at least 11 years between surveys in 1993-96. Hawaii didn't survey any of its 148 systems in that time.

As far back as 1992, congressional investigators at the General Accounting Office were urging stronger sanitary survey rules. One report called surveys ''one of the most effective tools states can use to help ensure compliance (with drinking water standards) and correct problems before they become serious.''

Yet neither the Safe Drinking Water Act amendments nor any related EPA rules set binding survey requirements.

The toll

This summer, the tiny town of Alpine, Wyo., permanent population 470, felt the brunt of the nation's trouble in enforcing its safe drinking water laws.

When all was said and done, the town's water had infected scores of people with E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria. And the potentially deadly contaminant, until now associated mainly with food, was established as a serious threat to water.

''We always thought we had the best water in the world,'' Mayor Donn Wooden says. ''We've learned a lot.''

Wyoming is the only state that hasn't implemented any Safe Drinking Water Act rules. The state has no regulatory program for drinking water. It has repeatedly declined federal requests to set one up.

So it's up to the EPA to regulate the more than 700 public water systems in Wyoming. And the federal agency does that -- from Denver.

''We provide as much public health protection as we can,'' says Jack Rychecky, who heads the EPA's Wyoming program. ''It's awfully hard to be overseeing water systems in Wyoming from Denver.''

In Alpine, the EPA hadn't yet completed a review meant to determine whether town water, drawn from a local spring, needed chlorination or other treatment. The analysis would have shown that the water was at risk for contamination from surface runoff.

The threat was realized just before July 4, when the people of Alpine began turning up sick, many with the bloody diarrhea that signals E. coli's sometimes fatal attack on intestinal blood vessels.

State and federal health officials swarmed in, ultimately concluding the contamination probably came from animal waste that washed into the town's spring. They found 68 confirmed cases and at least 150 suspected cases of E. coli poisoning. Nineteen people were hospitalized; two children and one adult were in critical condition; no one died.

Rychecky says the EPA has ''taken the lessons of to heart'' and is scrambling to finish assessing Wyoming's water systems.

And there's new recognition that it takes vigilance to assure clean water, no matter how pristine the surroundings.

Says Mayor Wooden: ''It's like a fly flying around in a room, and the fly happened to land in our glass.''

Hard lessons: John and Loretta Linsner, and more than 100 friends and family, got sick from food prepared with bad water from a convenience shop in Groveland, N.Y. Haunted by questions: Kathleen and Lon Clark of DeKalb, Ill., say they'll always wonder if it was the water that led to bone cancer that killed their son Max.

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Miracles of Water - Amazing Secrets for Health & Wellness excerpts taken from "Your Body's Many Cries for Water" by Fereydoon Batmanghelidj   1995

Cure #1:  Water prevents and cures heartburn.  Heartburn is a signal of water shortage in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract.  It is a major thirst signal of the human body. The use of antacids or tablet medications in the treatment of this pain does not correct dehydration, and the body continues to suffer as a result of its water shortage.

Tragedy: Not recognizing heartburn as a sign of dehydration and treating it with antacids and pill medications will, in time, produce inflammation of the stomach and duodenum, hiatal hernia, ulceration, and eventually cancers in the gastrointestinal tract, including the liver and pancreas. 

Cure #2:  Water prevents and cures arthritis.  Rheumatoid joint pain - arthritis - is a signal of water shortage in the painful joint.  It can affect the young as well as the old.  The use of painkillers does not cure the problem, but exposes the person to further damage from pain medications.  Intake of water and small amounts of salt will cure this problem. 

Cure #3:  Water prevents and cures back pain.  Low back pain and ankylosing arthritis of the spine are signs of water shortage in the spinal column and discs - the water cushions that support the weight of the body.  These conditions should be treated with increased water intake.  Not a commercial treatment, but a very effective one.

Tragedy:  Not recognizing arthritis and low back pain as signs of dehydration in the joint cavities and treating them with pain killers, manipulation, acupuncture, and eventually surgery will, in time, produce osteoarthritis when the cartilage cells in the joints have eventually all died.  It will produce deformity of the spine.  It will produce crippling deformities of the limbs.  Pain medications have their own life threatening complications.

Cure #4:  Water prevents and cures angina.   Heart pain - angina - is a sign of water shortage in the heart/lung axis.  It should be treated with increased water intake until the patient is free of pain and independent of medications.  Medical supervision is prudent.  However, increased water intake is angina's cure.

Cure #5:  Water prevents and cures migraines.  Migraine headache is a sign of water need by the brain and the eyes.  It will totally clear up if dehydration is prevented from establishing in the body.  The type of dehydration that causes migraine might eventually cause inflammation of the back of the eye and possibly loss of eyesight.

Cure #6: Water prevents and cures colitis. Colitis pain is a signal of water shortage in the large gut.  It is associated with constipation because the large intestine constricts to squeeze the last drop of water from the excrements - thus the lack of water lubrication. 

Tragedy:  Not recognizing colitis pain as a sign of dehydration will cause persistent constipation.  Later in life, it will cause fecal impacting: it can cause diverticulitis, hemorrhoids and polyps, and appreciably increases the possibility of developing cancer of the colon and rectum. 

Cure #7:  Water and salt prevent and cure asthma.  Asthma, which also affects 14 million children and kills several thousand of them every year, is a complication of dehydration in the body.  It is caused by the drought management programs of the body.  In asthma free passage of air is obstructed so that water does not leave the body in the form of vapor - the winter steam.  Increased water intake will prevent asthma attacks.  Asthmatics need also to take more salt to break the mucus plugs in the lungs that obstruct the free flow of air in an out of the air sacs.

Tragedy:  Not recognizing asthma as the indicator of dehydration in the body of a growing child not only will sentence many thousands of children to die every year, but also will permit irreversible genetic damage to establish in the remaining 14 million asthmatic children.

Cure #8:  Water prevents and cures high blood pressure.  Hypertension is a state of adaptation of the body to a generalized drought, when there is not enough water to fill all the blood vessels that diffuse water into vital cells.  As part of the mechanism of reverse osmosis when water from the blood serum is filtered and injected into important cells through minute holes in their membranes, extra pressure is needed for the "injection process."  Just as we inject I.V. 'water' in hospitals, so the body injects water into tens of trillions of cells all at the same time.  Water and some salt intake will bring blood pressure back to normal!

Tragedy:  Not recognizing hypertension as one of the major indicators of dehydration in the human body, and treating it with diruetics that further dehydrate the body will, in time, cause blockage by cholesterol of the heart arteries and the arteries that go to the brain.  It will cause heart attacks and small  or massive strokes that paralyze.  It will eventually cause kidney disease.  It will cause brain damage and neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease.

Cure #9:  Water prevents and cures early adult-onset diabetes.  Adult-onset diabetes is another adaptive state to severe dehydration of the human body.  To have adequate water in circulation and for the brain's priority water needs, the release of insulin is inhibited to prevent insulin from pushing water into all body cells.  In diabetes, only some cells get survival rations of water.  Water and some salt will reverse adult-onset diabetes in its early stages.

Tragedy:  Not recognizing adult-onset diabetes as a complication of dehydration will, in time, cause massive damage to the blood vessels all over the body.  It will cause eventual loss of the toes, feet and legs from gangrene.  It will cause eye damage, even blindness.

Cure #10:  Water lowers blood cholesterol.  High cholesterol levels are an indicator of early drought management by the body.  Cholesterol is a claylike material that is poured in the gaps of some cell membranes to safeguard them against losing their vital water content to the osmotically more powerful blood circulating in their vicinity.  Cholesterol, apart from being used to manufacture nerve cell membranes and hormones, is also used as a "shield" against water taxation of other vital cells that would normally exchange water through their cell membranes.

Cure #11:  Water cures depression, loss of libido, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy.  These conditions are caused by prolonged chronic dehydration.  They will clear up once the body becomes well and regularly hydrated.  In these conditions, exercising one's muscles should be part of the treatment program.

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