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The Quality of Drinking Water in North Carolina Farmworker Camps

American Journal of Public Health. October 2012, Vol 102, No. 10

Werner E. Bischoff, MD, PhD, Maria Weir, MAA, MPH, Phillip Summers, MPH, Haiying Chen, MD, PhD, Sara A. Quandt, PhD,
Amy K. Liebman, MPA, MA, and Thomas A. Arcury, PhD

Objectives. The purpose of this study was to assess water quality in migrant farmworker camps in North Carolina and determine associations of water quality with migrant farmworker housing characteristics. Methods. We collected data from 181 farmworker camps in eastern North Carolina during the 2010 agricultural season. Water samples were tested using the Total Coliform Rule (TCR) and housing characteristics were assessed using North Carolina Department of Labor standards. Results. A total of 61 (34%) of 181 camps failed the TCR. Total coliform bacteria were found in all 61 camps, with Escherichia coli also being detected in 2. Water quality was not associated with farmworker housing characteristics or with access to registered public water supplies. Multiple official violations of water quality standards had been reported for the registered public water supplies. Conclusions. Water supplied to farmworker camps often does not comply with current standards and poses a great risk to the physical health of farmworkers and surrounding communities. Expansion of water monitoring to more camps and changes to the regulations such as testing during occupancy and stronger enforcement are needed to secure water safety. (Am J Public Health. 2012;102: e49–e54. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300738)

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