Clinton Praises “Right to Know” Water Reports

President Bill Clinton took the podium recently near San Francisco to praise the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule to require water utilities to issue regular reports to their customers on the quality of their drinking water.

President Bill Clinton took the podium recently near San Francisco to praise the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule to require water utilities to issue regular reports to their customers on the quality of their drinking water.

Speaking at the Harry Tracy Water Filtration Plant in San Bruno, Calif., Clinton said, “It may have been gold that brought people to California 150 years ago, but water has enabled them to stay here and enabled this state to grow and expand to the point where now California comprises 13 percent of our entire nation’s population.

“Few states are blessed with such a supply of fresh water and none have done more to put it to productive use than California. Still, although there are problems, and I understand there are still disputes over water, I have seen in my own administration how, by working patiently together with different groups, cooperation can win out to protect this vital resource so there’s enough for the farms, for the wildlife and for the people.”

Clinton said he and Vice President Al Gore have worked to strengthen the Safe Drinking Water Act and help communities upgrade treatment plants and focus on contaminants posing the greatest threat.

“Today we take another important step to empower communities with information. Beginning next year, under a new EPA community right-to-know rule I’m announcing today, water systems across our country must give their customers regular reports on the water flowing from their taps; to tell consumers where the water comes from, whether it meets federal standards, as well as the likely source of any contaminants and their potential health effects.

“Thanks to these reports, contamination in the water will no longer be invisible to the eye. Families will see at a glance whether their drinking water is safe. When it is not, utilities will have a crystal clear incentive to clean it up.”

Clinton also complained that “Congress has refused to fund my Clean Water Action Plan that would help to restore the 40 percent of our waters that are still too polluted for fishing and swimming.”

EPA said the right-to-know program would begin Oct. 1, 1999. Some 55,000 water systems serving 240 million Americans will provide “consumer confidence” reports yearly. In most systems, the report must be delivered to each customer, either with the water bill or in a separate mailing, and systems serving over 100,000 people must make them available via the Internet as well.

The reports must inform consumers about the source of their water and if it meets federal drinking water standards. They must identify potential sources of any contaminants found, and potential health effects if standards are violated.

And the reports much include health advisories for people with medical conditions that weaken their immune systems or making them more vulnerable to certain contaminants.

Irrigation water

The General Accounting Office has reported several thousand of people, mostly in Texas and California, continue to rely on untreated irrigation water for drinking.

Irrigation water

The congressional watchdog agency said the practice occurs mostly in the arid western states. GAO said several thousand California residences use irrigation water and an estimated 11,250 persons in Texas.

Irrigation water

The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Amendments contained provisions to regulate irrigation water supplies as public water systems unless they met certain exclusion criteria. EPA issued a guidance effective Aug. 6 to implement those criteria.

Irrigation water

“The vast majority of the households relying on such water in both California and Texas are believed by state, local, and irrigation system officials to be purchasing bottled water or hauled water for drinking and cooking, and using the water from irrigation systems for other uses, such as bathing and washing dishes.”

Irrigation water

GAO said it would cost from $2,100 to $18,000 per household to install central water treatment facilities for those citizens, as proposed under the SDWA.

Irrigation water

It added, “State program administrators from both California and Texas expressed concern about whether people will be forthcoming about the sources of their residential water, particularly if they may be required to pay for costly alternatives.”

Irrigation water

It said representatives of irrigation districts also complained about the timing and content of the EPA draft guidance.

Irrigation water

In the study, GAO reviewed use of irrigation water in Texas’ Hidalgo and Cameron counties and California’s Nevada, Placer, Tuolumne, and Imperial counties. The report was titled, “Drinking Water: Some Households Rely on Untreated Water from Irrigation Systems.”

Enforcement Cases

Syro Inc., which operates a steel manufacturing facility in Centerville, Utah, has agreed to pay $750,000 in fines and penalties for discharging wastewater containing zinc into South Davis County’s sewer system.

Enforcement Cases

Effluent from the sewer system entered the Farmington Bay Wetlands, the home of the Farmington Bird Refuge.

Enforcement Cases

Syro also will pay $100,000 to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Hazardous Substances Mitigation Fund, $100,000 to the South Davis County Sewer Improvement District and $50,000 to the Western States Project.

Enforcement Cases

Kenneth Bender of Festus, Mo., former superintendent of Alliance Water Resources (AWR) of Columbia, Mo., has been indicted in St. Louis federal court for allegedly ordering the discharge of sludge, submitting false discharge monitoring reports, and ordering AWR employees to use grading machinery to bury any evidence of sludge from the alleged illegal discharges.

Enforcement Cases

AWR was a contractor operating wastewater treatment plants for the Northeast Public Sewer District in Jefferson County during 1996.

Enforcement Cases

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Marbell Inc., a Carlstadt, N.J., excavation contractor, for allegedly subjecting employees to potentially life threatening conditions during trenching for sewer and water mains.

Enforcement Cases

OSHA proposed penalties totaling $232,200. It said Marbell has been cited 27 times since 1991 for similar violations related to trenching hazards.

Enforcement Cases

Patricia Clark, OSHA regional administrator, said, “We intend to see that this contractor is brought into compliance with OSHA regulations by proposing close to the maximum penalties permitted by statute for these most recent violations.”

Enforcement Cases

The Roxbury Township Police Department notified OSHA after observing that Marbell employees were working in a 7-foot-deep ditch in Roxbury Township without proper protection against collapse.

Enforcement Cases

The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency was acting within its powers when it ordered Trinity American Corp., Glenola, N.C., to test for contaminants in ground water and offer bottled water to residents.

Enforcement Cases

The company operated a polyurethane foam plant in Glenola and had been cited by state authorities for dumping toxic chemicals on the ground. EPA had discovered that levels of chlorinated solvents and petroleum hydrocarbons were above maximum allowable levels in private water wells near the plant.

Enforcement Cases

EPA ordered Trinity to test water supply wells west and southwest of the plant, and offered bottled water to residents. Trinity argued EPA was exceeding its powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

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