Safe Drinking Water Act
Safe Drinking Water Act (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to set standards regarding the maximum amounts of certain materials allowed in public drinking water; these include harmful inorganic and organic substances, radioactive substances, microorganisms, and suspended materials. The act requires the individual U.S. states to enforce the EPA’s standards, and it requires each public drinking-water supplier to monitor the quality of its water sent to home users. Initially the EPA included twenty-five materials on its list of contaminants, but over time it has added many others.
(The entire section is 95 words.)
Drinking-Water Contaminants (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
The EPA sets maximum levels of contaminants in public drinking water for microorganisms (such as viruses, colliform bacteria, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium), disinfection by-products (such as bromate and chlorite), disinfectants (such as chloramines and chlorine), inorganic chemicals (such as arsenic, asbestos, chromium, cyanide, fluoride, lead, mercury, and nitrate), organic chemicals (such as atrazine, benzene, dichlorobenzene, and dioxin), and radionuclides. In addition to setting the maximum allowable amount of each contaminant (the maximum contaminant level, or MCL) in drinking water (usually in milligrams of contaminant per liter of water), the EPA states the ideal goal level of the contaminant (usually also in milligrams per liter). The EPA also provides information on the typical sources of the contaminants listed and their possible harmful health effects on humans.
Nitrate, for example, is a common pollutant in natural waters that may come from sewage, animal waste, fertilizer runoff, or the erosion of natural deposits. Nitrate levels thus can become high in groundwater near feedlots for cattle or in areas where large amounts of fertilizers are used, such as agricultural areas. Nitrogen compounds formed from nitrate may bond with hemoglobin in the blood of humans so that less oxygen can be transported through the body by hemoglobin. Humans, especially babies, can become seriously ill from...
(The entire section is 328 words.)
Municipal Water System Problems (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Individual U.S. states have often failed in their enforcement of the EPA drinking-water standards. In 1985, for example, more than eighteen hundred cases were reported in which water in public supplies contained contaminants at levels higher than the maximum allowed. The most common problems involved levels of microorganisms, nitrate, and fluoride that exceeded EPA-required levels.
Because of such problems, amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act were passed by Congress in 1986. This legislation gave the EPA deadlines by which it was to set and enforce reasonable standards for more than eighty potentially dangerous contaminants in public water systems. In setting the MCLs, the EPA was required to take into consideration not only the danger of the contaminants but also the costs of meeting these standards in public waters. Also included in this law was a ban on the use of lead solder and pipes in public water systems. In addition, the 1986 amendments required the EPA to monitor materials injected under the ground, such as oil field brines, to ensure that the injected materials do not contaminate groundwater supplies.
(The entire section is 178 words.)
Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Cech, Thomas V. “Water Quality.” In Principles of Water Resources: History, Development, Management, and Policy. 3d ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2010.
Dorsheimer, Wesley T. “Removing Nitrate from Groundwater.” Water Engineering and Management 144, no.12 (1997): 20-24.
Gray, N. F. Drinking Water Quality: Problems and Solutions. 2d ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Ketcham-Colwill, J. “Safe Drinking Water Law Toughened.” Environment 28, no. 7 (1986): 42-43.
Royte, Elizabeth. Bottlemania: Big Business, Local Springs, and the Battle over America’s Drinking Water. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009.
(The entire section is 80 words.)
Safe Drinking Water Act (Great Events from History II: Ecology and the Environment Series)
Article abstract: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was given authority to establish minimum safety requirements for pollutants such as arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, fluoride, lead, mercury, nitrates, pesticides, radioactivity, and silver.
Summary of Event
On December 16, 1974, President Gerald Ford signed the Safe Drinking Water Act, which empowered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to control drinking-water quality by establishment of standard regulations and other techniques. The SDWA requires the EPA to develop two types of standards for water consumed by humans. These are recommended maximum contaminant levels (RMCLs) and maximum contaminant levels (MCLs). An RMCL quantifies a maximum contaminant concentration based only on scientific and health-related concerns. This is an informational standard and a long-term goal. In contrast, an MCL is a legal limit which, if exceeded, will require action to lower the pollutant concentration to the compliance value. The primary intent of the SDWA was to establish uniform drinking-water quality in all parts of the United States. Its regulations mainly apply to water after it has been treated, as opposed to surface or ground water.
Water has always played an important part in history, and was regarded by the ancients as one of four elements (earth, air, fire, and water). Humankind’s desire to improve water quality is hardly a new idea....
(The entire section is 2200 words.)