Tribal Utility Authority will bring nine drinking water facilities into compliance with EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act

The EPA's administrative order requires the tribe and Tribal Utility Authority to make improvements at their facilities throughout the reservations by September 30, 2018.

Talkalai Lake on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Photo: Arizona Department of Water Resources.
Talkalai Lake on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Photo: Arizona Department of Water Resources.

SAN FRANCISCO, NOVEMBER 9, 2016 -- The San Carlos Apache Tribe and the San Carlos Apache Tribal Utility Authority have agreed to bring nine of their drinking water systems into compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act as part of a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA's administrative order requires the tribe and Tribal Utility Authority to make improvements at their facilities throughout the reservations by September 30, 2018. The nine systems serve 14,981 residents. Prior to that, by December 23, 2016 the tribe will provide alternate drinking water to the 185 Soda Canyon system customers due to levels of arsenic that exceed federal standards.

"Our goal is to protect the health of tribal members and ensure their drinking water is safe.” said Alexis Strauss, EPA's Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "Public drinking water systems must sample water, report the results and address compliance issues in a timely manner."

The EPA's action amends a 2011 settlement in which the tribe agreed to bring their drinking water systems into compliance. The EPA found the San Carlos Apache Tribe and the Tribal Utility Authority violated the terms of the 2011 order and continued to provide water that was not in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Specifically, the tribe failed to provide drinking water that complies with the maximum contaminant levels for arsenic and total coliform, failed to monitor for total coliform, arsenic, nitrates, lead and copper and failed to provide notice to its consumers.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element ubiquitous throughout the west. Some people who drink water containing arsenic in excess of drinking water standards for many years may experience adverse health effects. These include circulatory, neurological and liver problems. Arsenic also has hormonal effects that can cause diseases such as diabetes. Arsenic is also a known human carcinogen. It can cause lung, bladder, and skin cancers, and may cause liver, kidney and prostate cancers.

EPA will continue to monitor the tribe's efforts to provide safe drinking water, and may levy civil penalties if the tribe fails to meet the compliance provisions in the settlement.

For more information on EPA's drinking water program, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/sdwa

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