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Safe Water Drinking Act

Why you need to read:

A survey conducted by the American Water Works Research Foundation in 1993 found that nearly two-thirds of water consumers surveyed said they received "very little" or "no" information on the quality of their water. The water quality reports will increase the availability of information. Informed and involved citizens can be strong allies of water systems, large and small, as they take action on pressing problems. Also, wan increase in public awareness can give sensitive sub populations the information that they need to protect them.


What is in your water? - What are drinking water standards?

Drinking water standards are regulations that EPA sets to control the level of contaminants in the nation's drinking water. These standards are part of the Safe Drinking Water Act's "multiple barrier" approach to drinking water protection, which includes assessing and protecting drinking water sources; protecting wells and collection systems; making sure water is treated by qualified operations; ensuring the integrity of distribution systems; and making information available to the public on the quality of their drinking water. With the involvement of EPA, states, tribes, drinking water utilities, communities and citizens, these multiple barriers ensure that tap water in the United States and territories are safe to drink. In most cases, EPA delegates responsibility for implementing drinking water standards to states and tribes.


SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT - What does this mean for you?

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was signed into law on December 16, 1974. The purpose of the law is to assure that the nation's water supply system serving the public meet minimum national standards for the protection of public health.

The SDWA covers all public water systems with piped water for human consumption with at least 15 service connections or a system that regularly serves at least 25 individuals. The SWDA directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish national drinking water standards. These standards limit the amount of certain contaminants provided by public water. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations establish limits for contaminants in bottled water. All drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791 FREE).


DEFINITIONS YOU NEED TO KNOW
  • Non-Detects (ND) - Laboratory analysis indicates that the constituent is not present.
  • Parts per million (ppm) or Milligrams per liter (mg/l) - One part per million corresponds to one minute in two years, or a single penny in $10,000.
  • Parts per billion (ppb) - or Micrograms per liter - One part per billion corresponds to one minute in 2,000 years, or a single penny in $10,000,000.
  • Parts per trillion (ppt) - or Nanograms per liter (nanograms/l) - One part per trillion corresponds to one minute in 2,000,000 years, or a single penny in $10,000,000,000.
  • Parts per quadrillion (ppq) or Picograms per liter (picograms/l) - One part per quadrillion corresponds to one minute in 2,000,000,000 years, or a single penny in $10,000,000,000,000.
  • Picocuries per liter (pCi/l.) - Picocuries per liter is a measure of the radioactivity in water.
  • Millirems per year (mrem/yr) - Measure of radiation absorbed by the body.
  • Million Fibers per Liter (MFL) - Million fibers per liter is a measure of the presence of asbestos fibers that are longer than 10 micrometers.
  • Nephelometric Turbidity Unit (NTU) - Nephelometric turbidity unit is a measure of the clarity of water Turbidity in excess of 5 NTU is just noticeable to the average person.
  • Variances & Exemptions (V&E) - State or EPA permission not to meet an MCL or a treatment technique under certain conditions.
  • Action Level - The concentration of a contaminant which, if exceeded, triggers treatment or other requirements which a water system must follow.
  • Treatment Technique (TT) - A treatment technique is a required process intended to reduce the level of a contaminant in drinking water.
  • Maximum Contaminant Level - The "Maximum Allowed" (MCL) is the highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to the MCLGs as feasible using the best available treatment technology
  • Maximum Contaminant Level Goal- The "Goal" (MCLG) is the level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety.