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System and Operational Improvements: Sanitary Surveys

Sanitary Surveys

What is a sanitary survey?

40 CFR DEFINITION: "Sanitary survey means an onsite review of the water source, facilities, equipment, operation and maintenance of a public water system for the purpose of evaluating the adequacy of such source, facilities, equipment, operation and maintenance for producing and distributing safe drinking water."

Sanitary surveys have been a component of state drinking water programs for decades. They are used by EPA and primacy states to collect information on water systems, and are utilized to determine a facility's capacity to deliver drinking water on a sustainable basis. At times, they are used to prevent and correct a water facility's physical and operational weaknesses. When conducted properly, sanitary surveys can:

  • identify systems needing technical or capacity development assistance;
  • reduce the risk of waterborne disease by identifying significant deficiencies; and
  • provide an opportunity to educate system operators.

How do you prepare for a sanitary survey?

The best way to prepare for a sanitary survey is to ensure that your records are available and organized, and your system is in good working order. It's also a good idea to review the EPA Region 8 pamphlet entitled Preparing for Your Drinking Water Sanitary Survey.

You should expect to spend at least two hours and up to several days with a surveyor reviewing your system, and helping to answer any questions he/she may have. If there were any changes to your system since the last survey, please have this information available. You may also want to note any recent changes to your system on a copy of your system schematic.

Please visit the EPA Region 8 Drinking Water Unit Tech Tips webpage for information about how to prevent contamination from entering wells and finished water storage tanks. Tech Tip topics include: Wellhead Openings, Access Hatches, Vents, Drains, Overflows and #24 Mesh Screen. Each of these important areas will be evaluated during sanitary surveys and significant deficiencies could be identified if there are any problems.

If you are interested in reading more about how sanitary surveys are conducted, please refer to the Drinking Water Requirements for States and Public Water Systems - Sanitary Surveys webpage. You may also want to take a look at either the Wyoming Sanitary Survey Form or the Tribal Sanitary Survey Form or any of the other sanitary survey forms in the Sanitary Survey section of the Reporting Forms page.

What should you expect from a sanitary survey?

You will receive correspondence or a phone call from a contractor working for EPA, or an EPA employee to arrange a day and time for conducting a sanitary survey of your water facility. EPA outlines eight elements as basic components of a sanitary survey. All sanitary surveys of small water systems will address these elements, if applicable:

  • Water source
  • Operator compliance with state requirements
  • Distribution system
  • Pumps, pump facilities and controls
  • Treatment and finished water storage
  • Cross-connection control
  • Operational safety
  • Water system management and operations

What happens after a sanitary survey?

After a sanitary survey is completed by an EPA employee or contractor, you can expect a letter and report in the mail within 3 - 4 months. Within the letter, you may see a list of significant deficiencies and/or recommendations that require your attention. The letter will state if you are required to respond within a specified time frame and correct any significant deficiencies.