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The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) urges the protection and preservation of the nation’s ground water and supports U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) development of a coherent national ground water strategy that acknowledges the need for state and local government primacy in managing our nation’s ground water resources.

AMWA opposes providing safe harbor from product liability for oil companies and manufacturers of chemicals such as MTBE. The contamination of drinking water supplies by MTBE and other chemicals is a serious problem. The cost of clean-up necessary to remove chemicals from drinking water sources should be borne by those parties responsible for the contamination and for putting the product into commerce.

All potential threats to groundwater should be thoroughly and continuously evaluated. Threats that are becoming better understood, such as those related to domestic oil and natural gas production, hydraulic fracturing and leaking industrial storage tanks,demonstrate the need for constant vigilance.Where potential ground water threats are identified, EPA should aggressively enforce current regulations. Additional, science-based regulations should be developed as necessary to protect ground water, and EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture should act aggressively to reduce agricultural pollutants from fertilizers, animal manure, and other sources of nutrients that degrade groundwater supplies.

The availability of ground water for a variety of purposes, but most importantly as a source of safe, high quality drinking water,is essential. AMWA urges Congress to consider development of a comprehensive ground water policy which consolidates EPA’s authorities as outlined in the Comprehensive Ground Water Protection Program Guidance and addresses, at a minimum, the following key issues: protection of ground water used for drinking water and ground waters with ecological impacts such as ground waters hydrologically connected to surface waters; the relationship between the quality and quantity of ground water; the sources of contamination; relationship to states’ water rights statutes; and federal, state and local responsibilities for the management and protection of ground water.AMWA also urges Congress to adequately fund the wellhead protection provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Rationale:

  1. Ground water is a critical component of the nation’s drinking water supply, accounting for approximately 39 percent of the nation’s public water supply withdrawals, and 98 percent of self-supplied domestic water withdrawals.1
  2. Ground water contamination is a significant problem, especially from improper disposal of hazardous wastes.
  3. Sources of ground water contamination include waste disposal practices, agricultural activities, and natural processes. The types of contaminants include microbes, salts, heavy metals, radionuclides, and complex synthetic organic compounds.
  4. Ground water contamination is expensive to detect and monitor. Further, once present, many of the contaminants are very difficult or impossible to remove from aquifers, and are unlikely to be changed or diluted as part of any natural progression.
  5. The problem of potential contamination is nationwide, with contamination incidents reported from every state. The specific types of contamination show a regional clustering, however, with industrial waste problems predominating in the Northeast, agriculture-related contamination in heavily agricultural states, and saltwater intrusion in metropolitan coastal areas.

1  Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2015,” United States Geological Survey.