The change is contained in the US EPA’s revised Drinking Water Public Notification Regulations. The revisions reduce the time from 72 to 24 hours for notifying the public of immediate risks, and also ensure the use of simpler language.

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requires public water systems to notify customers of potential public health risks. Required notices vary depending on the degree of risk, ranging from waterborne disease outbreaks to failure to properly test drinking water. Depending on the severity of the situation, water suppliers have from 24 hours to one year to notify their customers.

In l998, there were more than 124,000 violations of drinking water regulations requiring a public notice, involving over 25% of the170,000 public water systems in the US. Fewer than 1.5% of the violations posed an immediate health risk. Over 90% of these violations were for failure to fully meet monitoring or testing procedures.

The revisions include:

  • 24-hour notice. Water systems are required to distribute notices in 24 hours – instead of 72 – for violations posing acute health risks due to short-term exposure (Tier 1)
  • consultation requirement. Water systems must consult with the state or EPA within 24 hours of a Tier 1 violation to receive direction on subsequent requirements
  • 30 day notice for other serious violations. The notice deadline for violations of maximum contaminant levels or treatment techniques which do not pose an immediate threat to human health is extended from 14 days to 30 days, with possible extension to 3 months (Tier 2)
  • 12-month notice for non-serious violations. The notice deadline for all other violations is extended from 3 months to 12 months, allowing a single annual report where applicable (Tier 3). Systems may choose to include this notice in their annual consumer confidence report
  • simplified standard language. The existing standard health effects language is simplified. New standard language is now required for monitoring violations
  • Reduced number of notices. Under the previous regulations, water systems were required to use a number of delivery methods when distributing notices. The revised regulations require water systems to select a single method for each tier and to take additional steps to reach all the other persons served. The minimum required methods of delivery include the media, hand delivery, or posting for tier 1 notices, and direct mail, hand delivery, or posting for Tier 2 and Tier 3 notices

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie