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This Season, Let’s Celebrate Clean Water

Release Date: 12/16/2014
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

There’s more to celebrate this month than just the holidays – this month also marks the 40th anniversary of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

We all rely – and have come to expect – that plenty of clean water will flow from our faucets whenever we need it. Whether for drinking, cooking, or bathing, water plays an obvious role in our daily lives.

It’s hard to imagine then, that 40 years ago all sorts of pollution -- sewage, chemicals, and trash -- was carelessly dumped into our rivers, lakes, and streams. More often than not, this contamination would find its way into our drinking water. Back then we lacked the authority, science, technology and funding to adequately tackle the problem.

The passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act by Congress in 1974 changed all that. This law proved to be a giant step forward in protecting public health. In fact, it sets the U.S. apart as one of the world leaders in drinking water protection.

The Act specifically allows EPA to regulate the nation's public drinking water supplies by setting and enforcing national standards for drinking water quality. EPA now has drinking water regulations that protect us from more than 90 contaminants, including bacteria, disinfectants, inorganic and organic chemicals, and radioactive materials. Approximately 12.5 million New Englanders benefit from the clean and safe public drinking water, ensured by the protections of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

In addition to its regulatory responsibilities, EPA works in partnership with community water systems to improve their technical and financial capabilities in delivering safe drinking water. Since 1997, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund has provided funding for drinking water infrastructure projects, including the repair and replacement of pipes for transmission and distribution of water and storage.

Ray Raposa, Executive Director of the New England Water Works Association acknowledged “the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act not only raised the level of attention to public health by regulating public drinking waters nationally, but also ushered in a great period of partnership between water suppliers and EPA. We still have a few remaining challenges, but we should take time to celebrate the great progress we’ve made in protecting public health.”

So this holiday season, let’s raise a glass and toast to 40 years of progress from source to tap!

To learn more about the history of drinking water protection in the U.S., visit http://www2.epa.gov/safedrinkingwater40.

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By Curt Spalding
Curt Spalding is the regional administrator of EPA's New England Office in Boston