EPA releases 1997 drinking water report

92 percent of America's community water systems, serving 88 percent of the population, reported no violations of health-based drinking water standards in 1997, according to the US EPA's 1997 drinking water report.

Of the violations observed, 85 percent were violations of monitoring and reporting requirements, not health-based standards, and almost all monitoring and reporting violations occurred at the systems that served 3,300 or fewer people.

Monitoring and reporting violations are a concern at small water systems generally, but particularly on Indian reservations, where 98 percent of public water systems are small.

Based on information reported by states to EPA’s computer-based tracking system, the report describes steps the US Government is taking to improve the safety of the nation’s drinking water.

In August l996, President Clinton signed a new Safe Drinking Water Act with new amendments to provide for increased drinking water safety. Since then, the US Government has released $2.78 billion in funding for public water systems to improve their capability to provide safe drinking water.

New public right-to-know provisions will provide annual reports on the safety of local drinking water, beginning later in 1999.

The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments also provided regulators with stronger enforcement and penalty authorities. In fiscal year l997, states issued a total of 913 formal enforcement actions, including 632 administrative orders without penalty, 220 administrative orders with penalty, 60 civil referrals for judicial action and one criminal referral. During that same period, EPA issued 266 notices of violation, 392 federal administrative orders, 12 complaints for penalty and four civil referrals.

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