EPA Voices Support for Safe Drinking Water Act

[EPA press release - March 8, 1973]

Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Robert W. Fri today said that the Administration's proposed Safe Drinking Water Act will provide an effective solution to the problem of providing safe drinking water to the public.

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Public Health and the Environment of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Fri said that "deficiencies among the Nation's drinking water supply systems and surveillance programs have been well documented..."

Under the President's bill, Fri testified, the EPA Administrator would establish new Federal primary drinking water standards protective of public health and secondary standards for such matters as taste, odor and appearance.

State and local agencies wold be responsible for determining the necessary controls to meet the standards.

"When the Administrator issues primary or secondary standards," Fri said, "he also would be required to publish, among other matters, information and data relating to the treatment, operation, maintenance, and construction of water supply facilities."

While treatment, operation, maintenance and construction requirements are not made mandatory under the bill, information as to such would have to be published when standards are issued and would therefore be available for use by suppliers of drinking water in their operation. "That information could also be readily converted into regulations by State and local governments," Fri said.

"We believe the enforcement provisions of the bill will be highly effective, almost self-executing and require little direct Federal involvement, he said.

"The bill provides that the States shall have primary enforcement authority with regard to the drinking water standards and that EPA will monitor activities of the States and public water supply systems only to the extent necessary to determine if there is an adequate program to enforce the primary standards. Whenever the water delivered by a water supply system is not in compliance with the primary drinking water standards, the supplier of the water must notify its users, appropriate State agencies, and EPA of the non-compliance and the possible health effects of such non-compliance.

"This provision, coupled with a citizen suit provision will, we believe, make enforcement actions by regulatory agencies largely unnecessary. We believe that suppliers of drinking water, who in almost all cases charge for their product, could not withstand the public pressure if their customers have noticed that they are receiving water not in compliance with mandatory health standards. The possibility of a citizen suit provides an additional incentive to suppliers to maintain compliance with the standards."

Fri pointed out, however, that there are provisions for Federal enforcement in the case of an imminent health hazard.

"Federal enforcement could also be invoked where the supplier of water does not comply with the notification requirements, the monitoring and reporting requirements, or where there is a refusal to permit entry and inspection of facilities," Fri said.