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Safe Drinking Water Act In Its Prime at 30

Release Date: 12/16/2004
Contact Information:

Contact: Sheryl Rosner, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1865

For Immediate Release: December 16, 2004; Release # sr04-12-07

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Safe Drinking Water Act, one of the most important public health laws ever enacted in the United States. The Act aims to ensure that 170,000 public water supplies, serving 275 million people, meet national standards that protect consumers from harmful contaminants in drinking water. Locally, the Act regulates almost 11,000 public water systems serving nearly 12 million consumers in New England.

Water is the liquid of life; it makes up two-thirds of our bodies, yet most of us take the safety of our drinking water for granted. Because public health protection has been, and remains, the drinking water industry’s most important focus, the U.S. has one of the safest public drinking water supplies in the world.

In opening remarks before the New England Water Works Association’s December meeting inRandolph, Mass. today, EPA Regional Administrator, Robert W. Varney stated, “the 275 million people who benefit from the Safe Drinking Water Act’s vital public health protection can raise their water glasses tall today – let’s toast its 30th Anniversary and acknowledge its importance.”

“The public can be confident about the quality of their drinking water because of the hard work of the professionals charged with ensuring its safety,”said Ray Raposa, Executive Director of the New England Water Works Association. “While public health protection will always be our goal, we proudly celebrate our past achievements and look forward to the challenges ahead.”

Since tap water reliably flows from the spigots in our homes, it’s easy to forget that the water our families drink, cook and bathe in, comes from either deep in the ground or from a lake, river or reservoir. The Safe Drinking Water Act safeguards our water supplies by employing a multi-layer approach to protect water quality – beginning at the source. The Act mandates that states conduct detailed source water assessments to help identify potential contaminant sources and take steps to protect them.

Through the years the Safe Drinking Water Act has grown to increase its protection of public health. The original 1974 Act called for EPA to create drinking water regulations and set standards for 18 contaminants. Today more than 83 harmful chemical, radiological and microbiological contaminants are regulated.

The Act requires water suppliers to test water and adequately treat it so that it can meet the increasing number of health-based standards. It gives EPA, delegated-states and tribes, authority to enforce the standards, and requires water suppliers to keep their systems in good working order.

The Safe Drinking Water Act provides necessary funding to help water suppliers meet the increasing demands of the Act, at a time when the aging infrastructure of many water systems require costly upgrades. In support of improved drinking water quality, EPA presented two major grants to water suppliers today – a $29 million state revolving fund grant to the Mass. Water Pollution Abatement Trust, and a grant to the New England Water Works Association for $115,000 to be used for development of a first responder sampling guide.

The Safe Drinking Water Act dictates that public water suppliers provide annual reports about water quality to every drinking water consumer. The Act’s multi-faceted approach relies on the hard work and involvement of many partners, including EPA, states, tribes, water suppliers, industry and consumers.

Drinking water utilities today find themselves facing challenges they never envisioned 30 year ago – security and counter-terrorism have become a focal point since our world changed after 9/11. Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2002 specify actions certain community water systems must take to improve the security of the nation’s drinking water infrastructure. The new requirements call for assessments of system vulnerabilities and development of emergency response plans.

Our work to keep our Nation’s supply safe is not done - we must meet our new challenges, keep pace with advances in science and technology and protect our drinking water supplies at the source. EPA plans to continue to implement new rules and help the Act grow with the changing needs of our society – so that our children can toast future Safe Drinking Water Act milestones and can confidently continue to enjoy safe drinking water.

Related Information:
Safe Drinking Water 30th Anniversary
Drinking Water
Combined Sewer Overflows