North Carolina farm camps have substandard drinking water

Werner E. Bischoff, Maria Weir, Phillip Summers, Haiying Chen, Sara A. Quandt, Amy K. Liebman, and Thomas A. Arcury. The Quality of Drinking Water in North Carolina Farmworker Camps. Am J Public Health. 2012;102: e49–e54. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300738

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.

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