B
Overview of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)

The reauthorized federal Safe Drinking Water Act was signed on August 6, 1996. The Act encompasses several major themes:

Standard-Setting Process
  • The law updates the standard-setting process by focusing regulations on contaminants known to pose greater public health risks.

  • It replaces the current law’s demand for 25 new standards every three years with a new process based on occurrence, relative risk, and cost-benefit considerations.

  • It also requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to select at least five new candidate contaminants to consider for regulation every five years.

Consumer Confidence Reports
  • EPA is directed to require public water systems to provide customers with annual “Consumer Confidence Reports” in newspapers and by direct mail.

SOURCE: American Water Works Association. Available online at http://www.awwa.org/bluethumb/understandingthesafe.htm



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OCR for page 128
Privatization of Water Services in the United States: An Assessment of Issues and Experience B Overview of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) The reauthorized federal Safe Drinking Water Act was signed on August 6, 1996. The Act encompasses several major themes: Standard-Setting Process The law updates the standard-setting process by focusing regulations on contaminants known to pose greater public health risks. It replaces the current law’s demand for 25 new standards every three years with a new process based on occurrence, relative risk, and cost-benefit considerations. It also requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to select at least five new candidate contaminants to consider for regulation every five years. Consumer Confidence Reports EPA is directed to require public water systems to provide customers with annual “Consumer Confidence Reports” in newspapers and by direct mail. SOURCE: American Water Works Association. Available online at http://www.awwa.org/bluethumb/understandingthesafe.htm

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Privatization of Water Services in the United States: An Assessment of Issues and Experience The reports must list levels of regulated contaminants with Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs), along with plainly worded definitions of both. The reports must also include a plainly worded statement of the health concerns for any contaminants for which there has been a violation, describe the utility’s sources of drinking water, and provide data on unregulated contaminants for which monitoring is required, including Cryptosporidium and radon. EPA must establish a toll-free hot line customers can call to get additional information. Source-Water Protection EPA is required to publish guidelines for states to develop water source assessment programs that delineate protection areas and assess contamination risks. A source water petition program for voluntary, incentive-based partnerships among public water systems and others to reduce contamination in source water is authorized. State Revolving Loan Fund The law establishes a new State Revolving Loan Fund (SRLF) of $1 billion per year to provide loans to public water systems to comply with the new SDWA. It also requires states to allocate 15 percent of the SRLF to systems serving 10,000 or fewer people unless no eligible projects are available for loans. It also allows states to jointly administer SDWA and Clean Water Act loan programs and transfer up to 33 percent between the two accounts. Small System Assistance EPA is required to identify technologies that are affordable for small systems to comply with drinking water regulations. Technical assistance funds and Small System Technical Assistance Centers are authorized to meet the training and technical needs of small systems. States are authorized to grant variances for compliance with drinking water regulations for systems serving 3,300 or fewer persons.

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Privatization of Water Services in the United States: An Assessment of Issues and Experience Operator Certification EPA is required to publish certification guidelines for operators of community and nontransient noncommunity public water systems. States that do not have operator certification programs that meet the requirements of the guidelines will lose 20 percent of their SRLF grant. Capacity Development States must ensure that all new systems have compliance capacity and that all current systems maintain capacity, or they will lose 20 percent of their SRLF grant. Increased Communication Although EPA will continue to provide policy, regulations, and guidance, state governments will now have more regulatory flexibility— allowing for improved communication between water providers and their local regulators. Increased collaboration will result in solutions that work better and are more fully supported by the regulated community. Monitoring States that have a source water assessment program may adopt alternative monitoring requirements to provide permanent monitoring relief for public water systems in accordance with EPA guidance.