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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Research
Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program

CLOSED - FOR REFERENCES PURPOSES ONLY

Microbial Risk in Drinking Water

Opening Date: February 25, 2003
Closing Date: July 31, 2003

Summary of Program Requirements
Introduction
Background
Specific Areas of Interest
References
Funding
Eligibility
Standard Instructions for Submitting an Application
Sorting Codes
Contact

Get Standard STAR Forms and Instructions (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/)
View NCER Research Capsules (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/publications/topical/)
View research awarded under previous solicitations (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/archive/grants/)

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS
General Information

Program Title: Microbial Risk in Drinking Water

Synopsis of Program:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking applications proposing innovative approaches for estimating microbial risk. Research is being solicited in two distinct areas of research:

(1) Development of indices or classification schemes, or actual risk characterizations based on data collection and analysis, that indicate relative degrees of potential risk from pathogens in source water, pathogen passage through treatment barriers, or vulnerability of a distribution system to pathogen intrusion or growth; and

(2) Epidemiology studies of ground water or surface water-based systems that generate data to indicate attributable risk from pathogens in distribution systems.

Contact Person:
Cynthia Nolt-Helms; Phone: 202-564-6763; email: nolt-helms.cynthia@epa.gov

Applicable Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s): 66.509

Eligibility Information:
Institutions of higher education and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and tribal, state and local governments, are eligible to apply. See full announcement for more details.

Award Information:
Anticipated Type of Award: Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: Approximately four to six awards for Research Area 1 (development of indices or classification schemes to characterize microbial risk) and one to two awards for Research Area 2 (epidemiological investigations)

Anticipated Funding Amount: Approximately $6 million total costs

Potential Funding per Grant:
For Research Area 1 (development of indices or classification schemes to characterize microbial risk): Up to $200,000/year with a duration of 2 or 3 years and no more than a total of $600,000 including direct and indirect costs;
For Research Area 2 (epidemiological investigations): Up to $600,000/year with a duration of up to 3 years and no more than a total of $1,800,000 including direct and indirect costs.
Proposals with budgets exceeding the total award limits will not be considered.

Sorting Codes:
The sorting codes for applications submitted in response to this solicitation are:
For Research Area 1 (development of indices or classification schemes to characterize microbial risk): 2003-STAR-H1
For Research Area 2 (epidemiological investigations): 2003-STAR-H2

Deadline/Target Dates:
Letter of Intent Due Date(s): None
Application Proposal Due Date(s): July 31, 2003

INTRODUCTION

One of the high-priority research areas identified by the EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) is drinking water. Under the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the responsibility for making sure public water systems provide safe drinking water is divided among EPA, states, tribal nations, water systems, and the public. Threats to drinking water safety come from the occurrence of chemical contaminants or pathogens in drinking water and research is needed in a variety of areas to improve the ability to assess and thereby reduce the public health risks from America's public water systems. EPA currently supports a number of drinking water-related research grants resulting from previous solicitations. Information regarding current research can be found on ORD's National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) page at: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/publications/topical/drinking.html.

The 1996 SDWA Amendments required EPA to publish a list of contaminants which, at the time of publication, are not subject to any proposed or promulgated national primary drinking water regulation, are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems, and may require regulation under the SDWA [section 1412(b)(1)]. This list has become known as the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) and the first drinking water CCL was published in March 1998 (Federal Register63(40):10274-10287, March 2, 1998). The list consists of 50 chemical and 10 microbial contaminants/contaminant groups that are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems. CCL contaminants are grouped according to the need for research in health effects, treatment or analytical methods; occurrence monitoring; and regulatory or guidance development. The Agency is required to repeat the contaminant identification and selection cycle every five years, and a second CCL list is expected to be released in early 2003. In addition to the above requirement to evaluate new drinking water contaminants for potential regulation, EPA is also required to re-evaluate existing drinking water standards every six years. Currently EPA is reviewing the total coliform rule (the only rule that requires microbial monitoring in the distribution system) and evaluating the need for revision or new guidance on reducing distribution system-related microbial risk.

EPA and others currently conduct risk assessments for pathogens in drinking water that serve as the basis for risk management decisions. The magnitude and causes of risk influence the stringency and focus of these decisions. EPA and water system providers will be able to make better-informed risk management decisions if they have a better understanding of: the magnitude of pathogen risks from drinking water, the relative contribution of pathogen risk from deficiencies in distribution systems, and the factors that contribute in a significant way to distribution system-related risk.

BACKGROUND

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that there are more than 200 million cases of acute gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses per year in the United States, 76 million of which may be foodborne (Mead et al., 1999). Household intervention epidemiology studies by Payment et al. (1991, 1997) have suggested that 10-40% of GI illnesses may be associated with drinking water. If only a small fraction of annual GI illness is caused by exposure to pathogens in drinking water, millions of cases of GI illnesses may be associated with drinking water each year. This rate is substantially greater than EPA's current estimates of illness caused by individual pathogens. Many waterborne illnesses will be reduced substantially by EPA's regulatory efforts to treat for pathogens originating in the source water (63FRN69478, December 16, 1998; 65FRN83015, December 29, 2000). However, much uncertainty remains regarding the etiology of and the extent to which waterborne disease incidence may still exist. Uncertainties result from both variable characteristics of pathogens and problems with distribution systems. Variability among different pathogens in their infectivity, virulence, and response to treatment approaches is an important issue in being able to assess total microbial risk. Additional discussion of potential distribution system problems can be found in a series of white papers developed by EPA and external stakeholders to inform discussions on the need for future regulations or guidance (http://www.epa.gov/safewater/tcr/tcr.html#distribution). Areas of potential microbial risk evaluated in the white papers include contamination caused by growth and release of pathogens from biofilms and intrusion of pathogens into the distribution system, e.g., during periods of low water pressure (due to leaks or piped cross-connections with non-potable water or to poor operation and maintenance practices). Methodologies, analytical tools, and data are needed to help estimate the extent of gastrointestinal illness attributable to drinking water in populations served by community water and to determine its chief causes. In this regard, methodologies for improving the sensitivity of recognizing risk that is attributable to drinking water are especially needed.

SPECIFIC AREAS OF INTEREST

To address this situation, the Agency is soliciting research proposing innovative approaches for estimating microbial risk. Proposed approaches, tools, and data should contribute to providing a better understanding of the magnitude, and, if feasible, the etiology of microbial risk in drinking water. There are two distinct areas of research covered by this solicitation:

  1. Development of indices or classification schemes, or actual risk characterizations based on data collection and analysis, that indicate relative degrees of potential risk from pathogens in source water, pathogen passage through treatment barriers, or vulnerability of a distribution system to pathogen intrusion or growth; and

  2. Epidemiology studies of ground water or surface water-based systems that generate data to indicate attributable risk from distribution systems.

Examples of research in either of the above two areas may involve characterizations of relative risk from different causes (e.g., source water pathogen loadings versus vulnerabilities within the distribution system) or characterization of risk associated with one cause such as vulnerability in distribution systems (e.g., risks from chronic or periodic exposure to pathogens released from biofilm or intrusion events). The use of innovative research approaches is encouraged, especially in the area of improving the sensitivity of recognizing risk that is attributable to drinking water.

REFERENCES

Mead P. S., Slutsker L, Dietz V. et al., 1999. Food-related illness and death in the United States. Emerg. Infect. Dis., Vol. 5, no. 5. Available from URL: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol5no5/mead.htm. exit EPA

Payment P., Richardson L., Siemiatycki J. et al., 1991. A randomized trial to evaluate the risk of gastrointestinal disease due to consumption of drinking water meeting currently accepted microbiological standards. Am. J. Public Health, 81:703-708.

Payment P., Siemiatycki J., Richardson L., 1997. A prospective epidemiological study of gastrointestinal health effects due to the consumption of drinking water. Int. J. Environ. Health Res., 7:5-31.

FUNDING

It is anticipated that a total of approximately $6.0 million will be awarded, depending on the availability of funds, with approximately $3 million to be awarded to proposals responsive to each of the two research areas. EPA anticipates funding approximately three to six awards total under this RFA. The projected award per grant is as follows:

  1. Up to $200,000 per year total costs, with a duration of 2 to 3 years, for proposals responsive to the first research area (development of indices or classification schemes to characterize microbial risk). Requests for amounts in excess of a total of $600,000, including direct and indirect costs, will not be considered. Approximately four to six awards will be made in this research area.

  2. Up to $600,000 per year total costs, for up to 3 years, for proposals responsive to the second research area (epidemiological investigations). Requests for amounts in excess of a total of $1.8 million, including direct and indirect costs, will not be considered. Approximately one to two awards will be made in this research area.

ELIGIBILITY

Institutions of higher education and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and tribal, state and local governments, are eligible to apply. Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive grants from EPA under this program.

National laboratories funded by federal agencies (Federally-funded Research and Development Centers, "FFRDCs") may not apply. FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation and regulations. They may participate in planning, conducting, and analyzing the research directed by the principal investigator, but may not direct projects on behalf of the applicant organization or principal investigator. The principal investigator's institution, organization, or governance may provide funds through its grant from EPA to a FFRDC for research personnel, supplies, equipment, and other expenses directly related to the research. However, salaries for permanent FFRDC employees may not be provided through this mechanism.

Federal agencies may not apply. Federal employees are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role on a grant, and may not receive salaries or in other ways augment their agency's appropriations through grants made by this program. However, federal employees may interact with grantees so long as their involvement is not essential to achieving the basic goals of the grant. EPA encourages interaction between its own laboratory scientists and grant principal investigators for the sole purpose of exchanging information in research areas of common interest that may add value to their respective research activities. This interaction must be incidental to achieving the goals of the research under a grant. Interaction that is "incidental" does not involve resource commitments.

The principal investigator's institution may enter into an agreement with a federal agency to purchase or utilize unique supplies or services unavailable in the private sector. Examples are purchase of satellite data, census data tapes, chemical reference standards, analyses, or use of instrumentation or other facilities not available elsewhere. A written justification for federal involvement must be included in the application, along with an assurance from the federal agency involved which commits it to supply the specified service.

Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact Jack Puzak in NCER, phone (202) 564-6825, email:puzak.jack@epa.gov.

STANDARD INSTRUCTIONS FOR SUBMITTING AN APPLICATION

The Standard Instructions for submitting a STAR Application, including the necessary forms, can be found on the NCER web site at: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/.

SORTING CODES

The need for a sorting code to be used in the application and for mailing is described in the Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application. The sorting codes for applications submitted in response to this solicitation are:
For Research Area 1 (development of indices or classification schemes to characterize microbial risk): 2003-STAR-H1
For Research Area 2 (epidemiological investigations): 2003-STAR-H2

The deadline for receipt of the applications by NCER is no later than 4:00 p.m. ET, July 31, 2003.

CONTACT

Further information, if needed, may be obtained from the EPA official indicated below. Email inquiries are preferred.

Cynthia Nolt-Helms
202-564-6763
nolt-helms.cynthia@epa.gov

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