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Drinking Water in New England

Drinking Water Laws and New Rules

Safe Drinking Water Act

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 and its amendments establishes the basic framework for protecting the drinking water used by public water systems in the United States. This law contains requirements for ensuring the safety of the nation's public drinking water supplies. Public drinking water supplies include water systems which regularly serve 25 or more people per day or which have at least 15 service connections. The U.S. EPA sets national standards for drinking water to protect against health risks, considering available technology and cost. Each standard also includes monitoring and reporting requirements.

The Act allows States to take over the implementation of the program by obtaining "primacy". In New England, all of the States have primacy and enforce the SDWA regulations.

Below is some information on Safe Drinking Water Act Programs and links to additional information.

Final New Regulations

Proposed Regulations

Program Health Effects & Description
Statute
Safe Drinking Water Act Links to the Act's text and other information on the statute.
Protection Programs
Underground Injection Program Program restricting injection of waste into ground water
Sole Source Aquifer Program designates principal ground water sources as sole source aquifers
Wellhead Protection Program Program to prevent contamination of public wells
Source Water Assessment Program Program assessing the susceptibility of public drinking water sources to contamination
Funding
PWSS Grants Funding for program implementation to the States that are delegated the drinking water program.
State Revolving Loan Funds Funds made available as loans or grants to improve water system infrastructure such as treatment facilities, storage, and distribution systems.

In 1996, the SDWA was amended, requiring EPA to, among other things, develop new regulations for a variety of contaminants. Below is a list of these new regulations and a brief description of the rule. The complete text of each rule may be found at the following web page:

Regulations & Guidance, Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)

New Regulations
Regulation Health Effects & Description
Final Rules
Filter Backwash Recycle Rule Gastrointestinal Illness, Cryptosporidiosis: Requires treatment of filter backwash water that is recycled within the treatment process.
Arsenic Rule Skin/Bladder Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Reproductive/Developmental Effects:Set a new Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for arsenic. (Under review)
Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule Requires monitoring of selected contaminants to develop occurrence data.
Radionuclides Rule Genetic Mutations, Kidney Toxicity, Cancer: Revised some radionuclide MCLs, added an MCL for Uranium, and included radionuclides in the Standardized Monitoring Framework.
Public Notification Rule Revises the regulations for notifying the public of SDWA regulation violations.
Lead and Copper Minor Revisions Developmental Delays, Kidney Damage, Gastrointestinal Distress: Changes to the Lead and Copper Rule
Interim Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule Gastrointestinal Illness, Cryptosporidiosis: Modifications to the Surface Water Treatment Rule to improve operation performance of drinking water treatment plant to remove cryptosporidium and other microbiological contaminants.
Stage 1 Disinfectants and Disinfectants By-Products Rule Bladder Cancer, Reproductive Effects: Sets MCLs to reduce disinfectant and disinfectant by-products that may be found in the treatment plant and distribution system.
Consumer Confidence Rule Requires community water systems to create an annual report that provides information on sources, source protection, detected contaminants, health effects and water system contacts.
Variance and Exemptions Rule Sets the terms and conditions under which a water system could get permission to exceed an MCL on a temporary basis.
Long Term 1 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule and Filter Backwash Rule Gastrointestinal Illness, Cryptosporidiosis: This rule is basically the same as the Interim Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule, only it applies to systems serving populations under 10,000.
Groundwater Rule Gastrointestinal Illness: Regulations to protect groundwater sources from microbiological contaminants.
Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule Reduce illness from microbial pathogens, specifically including Cryptosporidium
Stage 2 Disinfectants/ Disinfection Byproducts Rule Reduce cancer risks from byproducts that form during drinking water treatment.
Proposed Rules
Radon Rule Lung Cancer, Stomach Cancer: Proposes an MCL for radon in water and includes an alternative MCL based on mitigating radon in indoor air.

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Other Environmental Laws Support the Protection of Drinking Water Sources

Other environmental laws help to protect drinking water, including the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act recommends states to designate surface waters used for drinking water and to establish water quality standards for those waters. The Act also establishes programs to prevent the release of pollution to these waters. Laws regulating the use, transport, storage, release and generation of hazardous waste include the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (commonly known as Superfund), and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Pesticide affects on drinking water are primarily regulated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act and Food Quality Protection Act. Shipping of crude oil on the ocean is regulated by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

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Additional Sources of Information

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