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The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) believes continuing, federally-sponsored, health-based research is necessary to: understand the health risks of waterborne substances; develop improved analytical techniques to more accurately measure the level of contaminants in drinking water; protect drinking water supplies from contamination; identify the most reliable and efficient methods for removing contaminants from drinking water; develop methodologies and technologies to detect, prevent, and respond to acts of terrorism; and detect regional and local differences in source water quality. All research should be performed by qualified, reputable research organizations and should, to the extent possible, be oriented to provide information of direct benefit to water supply utilities and regulators.

AMWA urges Congress to provide the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)program funding at levels that will allow essential, thorough health effects research on disinfectants, disinfection byproducts and other drinking water contaminants. Health effects studies require special attention so that a firm, scientific basis exists for regulatory decisions including the risk tradeoffs of disinfection and other treatment practices.

AMWA believes EPA and/or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should help fill gaps in homeland security research through a national scientific research and development program. The need for new, sophisticated technologies in water security and cyber terrorism prevention is paramount to help water systems detect and respond to terrorist threats. Water utilities increasingly rely on electronic information systems to control many aspects of water treatment and distribution. It is essential that resources be invested now to protect water systems from physical, contaminant, and cyber threats in the future.

AMWA strongly supports maintaining federal funding for The Water Research Foundation’s research activities that address scientific, technical, and management issues of concern to the water and wastewater sector. This federal funding is a valuable compliment to resources provided by public and private water utilities. AMWA supports health effects research but believes that any effort to involve the Foundation in such research should be done only after extremely careful deliberations and, if conducted, should be performed by qualified, recognized health research organizations.

AMWA supports the efforts and funding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), EPA and other organizations to continue research on the occurrence and significance of waterborne diseases.

Rationale:

  1. Very little data exist regarding the health impacts of many substances now being detected intrace levels inboth surface and ground water supplies.
  2. Health effects research is urgently needed and extremely expensive. The federal role in drinking water research should emphasize the development of scientific health effects data.
  3. The EPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water and the drinking water research and development program have historically been underfunded, and, therefore unable to develop adequate occurrence, health effects, analytical methods, and Best Available Technology data for regulations. The regulation of disinfectants and disinfection byproducts and any future contaminants demands adequate funding because a large majority of Americans are served by systems using water treatment processes. Adequate funding is essential to study health impacts and eliminate incorrect decisions with resulting high costs.
  4. Research into the most effective means of controlling known contaminants is needed to assure that their removal is accomplished as reliably,efficiently and economically as possible. Required treatment technologies may be very costly, thus imposing a major burden upon water suppliers and ratepayers. Requiring the use of such technologies before they have been thoroughly demonstrated and proven under field operating conditions could result in substantial investment in a poorly suited technology, in the improper application of that technology, or in unintended water quality impacts.
  5. Because of the public health and financial implications of drinking water related research, it is essential that it be performed by highly qualified and objective organizations.
  6. To maximize the use of limited research budgets as well as the operating budgets of water utilities, research should be oriented toward projects that will produce information of direct benefit to water suppliers and regulators. The research is needed to help utility managers make decisions about how best to allocate resources to provide high quality water and meet federal and state requirements.
  7. Water and Wastewater Systems comprise one of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors recognized by DHS. The continuing threat of terrorism demonstrates the need for utilities to focus on finding new ways to improve the security of water system infrastructure and operations.8.To prevent duplication of effort in research, federal roles should be coordinated through designation of a lead agency.