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September 15, 2022
Contact: Antoinette Barber

Washington, D.C. - The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) hailed the agreement between the railroads and their unions that was announced by the White House today.

“This agreement has averted a major public health crisis,” said AMWA CEO Tom Dobbins. “If freight rail service had halted, water systems from coast to coast would have been at risk of running out of essential disinfectant chemicals, potentially leading to boil water notices for millions of Americans.”

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires water utilities to disinfect their water with chlorine, and many large drinking water systems rely on chlorine provided by rail for this purpose.  While these systems generally maintain several weeks of reserves on-site to protect against unexpected supply chain disruptions, for safety reasons, the volume of these reserves are limited.  Water systems are, therefore, not equipped to withstand a long-term halt in rail service.

Yesterday, AMWA joined a coalition of water sector groups that urged lawmakers to take action to avert the work stoppage and the public health impacts that would result.

Municipal water is the most highly regulated drinking water accessible to the public. No water at its source is appropriate for consumption. It is through treatment that any water available to the public is made safe. Chlorine is a key disinfectant in converting source water to drinking water. 

“With the threat of a work stoppage avoided and rail service maintained, municipal water utilities will continue to provide the highest quality of safe drinking water to the public,” Dobbins added.