The drinking water at one-third of migrant farmworker camps in eastern North Carolina failed to meet state quality standards, according to a new study from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
"Testing drinking water is vital to protect the public from serious diseases," said lead author Werner E. Bischoff, M.D., Ph.D., health system epidemiologist at Wake Forest Baptist. "Contaminated water puts the health of the workers who drink it at risk. It also puts the health of the surrounding community at risk because they may be drinking and bathing in water from the same sources."
The aim of the study was to assess water quality in North Carolina migrant farmworker camps and determine associations with camp housing characteristics based on N.C. Department of Labor standards. The study published online in August ahead of print in the American Journal of Public Health.
Researchers questioned two workers in each camp about housing. They used N.C. Department of Environment & Natural Resources guidelines to collect water samples in each camp. The water samples were tested in state-certified labs to check for total coliform bacteria and E. coli. The researchers looked at many factors for each camp that could affect water safety. These included housing conditions and distance from animal barns. They also examined whether each camp had a Certificate of Inspection from the N.C. Department of Labor, and whether the source of the camp's water was a "non-transient, non-community (NTNC) public water system."