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Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 2016 would set stage for improved funding and stronger warnings from EPA

Source: Environmental Integrity Project

September 22, 2016 (Washington D.C.) -- Lawmakers introduced a new bill today in Congress that would increase funding to improve the safety of public drinking water systems in California and across the U.S. and set the stage for stronger warnings about contaminated tap water.

U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) and Paul Tonko (D-NY) introduced the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 2016 to the House Energy and Commerce Committee in an effort to update the federal Safe Drinking Water Act for the first time in 20 years. The Environmental Integrity Project, which recently issued a report on arsenic in California drinking water, and other environmental organizations praised the proposed legislation.

The bill would help address a communications problem exposed by the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, by requiring EPA to issue improved notifications in annual reports about drinking water quality sent to residents called “consumer confidence reports.”  The bill would direct EPA to issue regulations, within two years, that “increase the effectiveness and understandability of consumer confidence reports.” 

Poor warnings by states to residents with contaminated drinking water were documented in a pair of reports issued by the Environmental Integrity project on Sept. 12 and March 14, “Arsenic in California Drinking Water” and “Don’t Drink the Water,” which are available at  The reports revealed that more than 55,000 Californians and 51,000 Texans have drinking water that for years has violated federal health limits for arsenic, a carcinogen that might also damage the IQ of young children.  Warner Springs School District in San Diego was among the districts in California with arsenic-tainted drinking water.

“This legislation should inspire EPA to require public water systems to warn consumers to avoid cooking or drinking with water that fails to meet health standards for arsenic and other carcinogens year after year,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former director of civil enforcement at EPA.  “That long term exposure significantly increases cancer risk and may also contribute to hypertension and learning disabilities, based on recent research.”

Schaeffer added:   “The federal and state governments also need to step up to the plate and provide more funding to help provide this safe drinking water, by increasing grants for water filtration systems.”

The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 2016  would also removes procedural hurdles that slow EPA’s setting of standards for other drinking water contaminants, and sets deadlines for the development of new federal standards on known dangers including: lead, perchlorate, perfluorinated compounds, and algal toxins.  In addition, the proposed legislation would provide grants for replacement of lead service lines in schools and communities and funding to protect drinking water systems from saltwater intrusion and other contamination from climate change and extreme weather.

The bill has language to help low-income people replace privately-owned lead service lines in their homes.  The proposal would provide funds that local water utilities could use to give eligible homeowners assistance of up to $10,000 for lead line replacement.

For a copy of the bill, visit here:\

For a summary of the bill’s provisions, visit here:

For a press release from the bill’s sponsors, visit here:

The Environmental Integrity Project is a 14 year old nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, based in Washington DC and Austin, Texas, that works to enforce environmental laws and hold polluters and governments accountable to protect public health.

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