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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Johnson, Drinking Water Security Announcement, New York, N.Y.

04/24/2008
Thank you, Mayor. It’s a pleasure to be back in the Big Apple, and I appreciate the opportunity to join you to announce the award of $12 million to New York City to develop a drinking water contamination warning system.

For more than 100 years, New York City has been a leader in providing safe drinking water to its citizens.

Keeping our water infrastructure sustainable and secure is not only critical to the health and welfare of our residents, it is also important for our economy.

Although most of it is buried underground, our water and wastewater infrastructure cannot remain, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

In this city, and throughout our nation, water is the lifeblood of our bodies, our economies, and our well-being.

You see, we don’t just use water for drinking. Clean and reliable sources of water and sanitary disposal are necessary for industry, manufacturing, transportation, electricity, even fire-fighting. And the list goes on.

Historically, water has been delivered with a high degree of reliability at relatively low cost so the absence of clean water and sanitary disposal options has been overlooked as a potential vulnerability.

Today, EPA is working to change that. And our focus is on helping utilities address the risk of intentional contamination of drinking water distribution systems.

We are working to ensure that protective measures are in place to prevent incidents and that tools are in place to detect when there may be a problem. Should a problem arise, it is important that we respond to it effectively to minimize disruptions and ensure that our population is safe and our economy is strong.

Through our Water Security Initiative, EPA developed a conceptual design for a contaminant warning system that achieves timely detection and appropriate response in an effort to mitigate health and economic impacts.

The warning system model includes online water quality monitoring, public health surveillance, sampling and analysis, enhanced security monitoring and consumer complaint surveillance. The use of multiple components is expected to attain overall faster detection of a broader range of potential contaminants than reliance on a single technology. Further, these five components work together to give early notice of potential contamination and also help improve overall water quality management.

Our first drinking water contamination warning system pilot in Cincinnati is operational and we are evaluating its experience to identify lessons learned from its deployment and operation, which we will share broadly. And I’m pleased that New York City has agreed to be one of our next two pilot cities.

We expect the pilot program to provide feedback that will help us reduce potential risks to drinking water as well as inform utilities nationwide on effective and sustainable drinking water contamination warning systems.

I would like to congratulate Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for taking proactive steps to strengthen New York City’s water system. This announcement – and the city’s continued commitment to its sources of drinking water – is important because our nation’s significant water infrastructure challenges cannot be addressed by federal regulations, or federal funding alone.

The challenge of our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure is not just an EPA challenge, a state challenge, or a New York City challenge … it’s everyone’s challenge.

Through technology, innovation and collaboration, I am confident that together we can provide clean, safe and secure water for every American.

Thank you.