EPA accused over sewage policy

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued new guidelines to secure drinking water and wastewater treatment plants against terrorist or other attacks but stands accused on another front of allowing millions of Americans to face increased threats of bacteria, viruses and parasites in their water. A new EPA policy allows sewer operators to dump inadequately treated sewage into US waterways.

The counter-attack guidelines, drawn up by industry groups including the America Water Works Association and Water Environment Federation, with EPA backing, urge improved water security designs and greater use of online monitoring to protect against the potential misuse of contaminants. (See feature page 16)

However, a legal spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said industry had strongly objected to giving the EPA more authority over water security. As a result, there was still no authority for federal officials to crack down on security threats.

Meanwhile, the EPA's new policy on waste treatment reverses a current regulation requiring sewer operators to fully treat their waste and will now allow operators to dump waste.

Nancy Stoner, director of the NRDC, said the new policy would expose Americans to disease-causing parasites, viruses and bacteria in drinking water and waterways. Further, Stoner said that allowing inadequately treated sewage into the country's waters would have "dire long-term environmental and economic consequences".

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