Rainstorm increases may aid cholera's return

According to a world-renowned water scientist, an increase in the number and frequency of extreme rainstorms brought about by global warming could help return cholera to North America.

The advent of water purification systems wiped out cholera in New York, Montreal and Boston by 1900, but Rita Colwell, a professor of water-health related issues at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, is concerned by the erratic weather of the last decade, according to the CBC.

"Perhaps if we have a breakdown in sewage treatment plants with severe weather patterns that this can then bring us to a risk of cholera, which we haven't had for over a hundred years," Colwell said, according to the CBC, at the Canadian Water Network’s annual conference in Ottawa.

Colwell pointed to the July 2010 floods in the Milwaukee area that saw the city’s sewage system back up and spill two billion gallons of sewage and storm water into the streets.

Steve Hrudy, a public health engineer from the University of Alberta, agrees, but also sees problems in the immediate future, particularly in that those in charge of water systems need to be better trained and better paid.

"Drinking water — providing it safely, is a complex knowledge-based business and it's getting more complicated all the time," Hrudey said, according to the CBC. "If you're in a community of 100, it's unlikely that you're a full-time water operator. You're probably responsible for snow removal and garbage removal and a few other things. What's the likelihood that you're going to be able to give the kind of attention to drinking water safety that it deserves?"