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The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) supports a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, or Superfund)statute that requires responsible parties to clean up contaminated ground water to assure protection of human health and the environment and attain any Maximum Contaminant Level Goal applicable to a contaminant for which they are responsible. The statute should protect uncontaminated ground water, and make polluters, and not water suppliers or their customers, legally and financially responsible for damages caused by hazardous waste pollution.When a responsible party is no longer in business and has left behind an abandoned contaminated site, the Superfund program (funded either through general appropriations or a reinstated Superfund excise tax) should pay for the cost of the cleanup.

In cases where treatment of contaminated water is technically impracticable, alternatives that ensure a safe, reliable and permanent supply of drinking water are preferable to remedies that involve temporary measures such as home treatment devices and the provision of bottled water. In addition, the statute should explicitly recognize the importance of including drinking water suppliers in Superfund decision-making. The statute should preclude liability against drinking water suppliers for leakage from drinking water system facilities of treated water that meets National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. Further, water systems should not be named as potentially responsible parties (PRPs) when the withdrawal of water for drinking water use may contribute to or accelerate migration of contaminants from a Superfund site.

AMWA supports retention of CERCLA Section 104(a)(3)(C) to ensure drinking water systems are exempt from liability under the law due to deterioration of the system through ordinary uses.

Rationale:

  1. Ground water is a finite and precious resource. Contamination of ground water sources further narrows its availability.
  2. Consumers have a right to a safe and reliable supply of drinking water.
  3. As a matter of economic fairness, the clean-up burden should fall on the party responsible for the pollution.
  4. If the responsible parties cannot be identified, cleanups utilizing Superfund should ensure that drinking water needs are met without unduly burdening consumers.
  5. Water suppliers should be explicitly included in the process for determining Superfund remedies, given their knowledge of ground water use, community needs, and water quality issues.
  6. Water distribution piping and water leaks may inadvertently add negligible levels of contaminants to a Superfund site. Normal withdrawal of water from an aquifer for drinking water use may cause migration of contaminants from a Superfund site.