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The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) supports the regulatory approach of the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 (SDWA). The statute takes into account lessons learned from past drinking water laws and focuses on contaminants that actually occur in drinking water at levels of public health concern as understood by the best available science. The law provides a sound scientific basis for regulations and appropriately considers the benefits the public may receive from regulatory efforts against the costs they will be asked to bear to achieve those benefits. AMWA believes EPA must faithfully follow the contaminant regulatory process as established by the 1996 amendments for the establishment of National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR).

AMWA strongly encourages Congress to support the 1996 amendments by ensuring that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) receives adequate funding to carry out the statute, particularly for health effects research. AMWA also encourages EPA to exercise the flexibility granted under SDWA to ensure that congressional intent is met and appropriate decisions for the protection of public health are made.

SDWA gives EPA the authority to develop non-regulatory Heath Advisories (HAs) for contaminants that are not subject to a NPDWR. While the statute outlines no criteria or process for the issuance of HAs, EPA has framed HAs as a means to offer technical guidance to assist Federal, State, and local officials responsible for protecting public health when emergency spills or contamination situations occur.”1 With this in mind, AMWA recommends that EPA develop a process and establish formal criteria for the development of HAs, with a focus on the risks associated with chemicals in close proximity to water supplies and regional and localized contaminants of concern. AMWA also believes that HAs should not become a substitute for the development of NPDWRs, which should remain the cornerstone of the safety of the nation’s drinking water. To achieve this, EPA should proactively emphasize to the public that HAs are not regulations.

AMWA encourages EPA to emphasize process transparency and stakeholder outreach efforts that ensure early and effective public participation in the development of regulations and other drinking water initiatives.

Rationale:

  1. AMWA strongly supported the 1996 revisions of the SDWA and championed many of the law’s initiatives, particularly those related to: health effects research funding, a focus on contaminants that actually occur in drinking water at levels of public health concern, consideration of costs and benefits, and adequate timeframes for compliance.
  2. Health effects research is a key component of the law, and only adequate funding by Congress in this area will allow the continued effectiveness of the statute.
  3. While the law provides flexibility to EPA to ensure that scarce public resources are appropriately expended to resolve the most pressing problems, EPA must exercise this flexibility to meet the intent of the SDWA.

1  "Drinking Water Health Advisory for Manganese,” Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, January 2004.