[House Hearing, 106 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 1996 SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT AMENDMENTS AND
FUNDING OF STATE DRINKING WATER PROGRAMS
HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
SEPTEMBER 19, 2000
Serial No. 106-158
Printed for the use of the Committee on Commerce
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
67-116CC WASHINGTON : 2000
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE
TOM BLILEY, Virginia, Chairman
W.J. ``BILLY'' TAUZIN, Louisiana JOHN D. DINGELL, Michigan
MICHAEL G. OXLEY, Ohio HENRY A. WAXMAN, California
MICHAEL BILIRAKIS, Florida EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
JOE BARTON, Texas RALPH M. HALL, Texas
FRED UPTON, Michigan RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
CLIFF STEARNS, Florida EDOLPHUS TOWNS, New York
PAUL E. GILLMOR, Ohio FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
Vice Chairman SHERROD BROWN, Ohio
JAMES C. GREENWOOD, Pennsylvania BART GORDON, Tennessee
CHRISTOPHER COX, California PETER DEUTSCH, Florida
NATHAN DEAL, Georgia BOBBY L. RUSH, Illinois
STEVE LARGENT, Oklahoma ANNA G. ESHOO, California
RICHARD BURR, North Carolina RON KLINK, Pennsylvania
BRIAN P. BILBRAY, California BART STUPAK, Michigan
ED WHITFIELD, Kentucky ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York
GREG GANSKE, Iowa TOM SAWYER, Ohio
CHARLIE NORWOOD, Georgia ALBERT R. WYNN, Maryland
TOM A. COBURN, Oklahoma GENE GREEN, Texas
RICK LAZIO, New York KAREN McCARTHY, Missouri
BARBARA CUBIN, Wyoming TED STRICKLAND, Ohio
JAMES E. ROGAN, California DIANA DeGETTE, Colorado
JOHN SHIMKUS, Illinois THOMAS M. BARRETT, Wisconsin
HEATHER WILSON, New Mexico BILL LUTHER, Minnesota
JOHN B. SHADEGG, Arizona LOIS CAPPS, California
CHARLES W. ``CHIP'' PICKERING,
VITO FOSSELLA, New York
ROY BLUNT, Missouri
ED BRYANT, Tennessee
ROBERT L. EHRLICH, Jr., Maryland
James E. Derderian, Chief of Staff
James D. Barnette, General Counsel
Reid P.F. Stuntz, Minority Staff Director and Chief Counsel
Subcommittee on Health and Environment
MICHAEL BILIRAKIS, Florida, Chairman
FRED UPTON, Michigan SHERROD BROWN, Ohio
CLIFF STEARNS, Florida HENRY A. WAXMAN, California
JAMES C. GREENWOOD, Pennsylvania FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
NATHAN DEAL, Georgia PETER DEUTSCH, Florida
RICHARD BURR, North Carolina BART STUPAK, Michigan
BRIAN P. BILBRAY, California GENE GREEN, Texas
ED WHITFIELD, Kentucky TED STRICKLAND, Ohio
GREG GANSKE, Iowa DIANA DeGETTE, Colorado
CHARLIE NORWOOD, Georgia THOMAS M. BARRETT, Wisconsin
TOM A. COBURN, Oklahoma LOIS CAPPS, California
Vice Chairman RALPH M. HALL, Texas
RICK LAZIO, New York EDOLPHUS TOWNS, New York
BARBARA CUBIN, Wyoming ANNA G. ESHOO, California
JOHN B. SHADEGG, Arizona JOHN D. DINGELL, Michigan,
CHARLES W. ``CHIP'' PICKERING, (Ex Officio)
ED BRYANT, Tennessee
TOM BLILEY, Virginia,
C O N T E N T S
Fox, J. Charles, Assistant Administrator for Water,
Environmental Protection Agency............................ 15
Gloriod, Terry L., President, Illinois American Water Company 74
Guerrero, Peter F., Director, Environmental Protection
Issues, General Accounting Office; accompanied by Helen
Crocker, Principal Investigator on the GAO Report.......... 7
Neukrug, Howard, Director, Office of Watersheds, Philadelphia
Water Department, on behalf of American Water Works
Association, accompanied by Alan Roberson, Director of
Regulatory Affairs, American Water Works Association....... 49
Olson, Eric D., Senior Attorney, Natural Resource Defense
Rutherford, Jay L., Director, Water Supply Division, Vermont
Department of Environmental Conservation................... 40
Tippin, David L., Director, Tampa Water Department........... 62
Material submitted for the record by:
Association of California Water Agencies, prepared statement
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 1996 SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT AMENDMENTS AND
FUNDING OF STATE DRINKING WATER PROGRAMS
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2000
House of Representatives,
Committee on Commerce,
Subcommittee on Health and Environment,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:05 a.m., in
room 2322, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Michael
Bilirakis (chairman) presiding.
Members present: Representatives Bilirakis, Deal, Bilbray,
Bryant, Brown, Green, and Capps.
Staff present: Joe Stanko, majority counsel; Nandan
Kenkeremath, majority counsel; Robert Simison, legislative
clerk; and Dick Frandsen, minority counsel.
Mr. Bilirakis. The hearing will come to order.
Good morning. I want to welcome all of our witnesses to
today's hearing on implementation of the 1996 State Drinking
Water Act Amendments and funding for State drinking water
This hearing is a continuation of the subcommittee's review
of the 1996 amendments. In October 1998, we held our first
implementation hearing on the 1996 amendments covering a range
of issues, from initial allocations to the State Revolving
Fund, or SRF as we fondly call it, to the process for
promulgating new contaminant regulations.
In October of last year we continued the subcommittee's
review of the 1996 amendments, focusing on the research efforts
which lie at the heart of new drinking water regulations.
Today's hearing will continue our broad review of
implementation activities pursuant to the 1996 amendments, but
will also focus on funding for State programs. We will receive
testimony from the General Accounting Office, which has
conducted an extensive review of the available Federal
resources for State programs, how much States have actually
spent for implementation activities, and what effect future
funding levels could have on the ability of States to implement
drinking water programs.
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, States are responsible
for the day-to-day activities which ensure the safety of our
water supply. Forty-nine out of 50 States maintain primary
enforcement responsibility for drinking water programs.
States conduct sanitary surveys or physical inspections of
drinking water systems. They provide technical assistance. They
are responsible for overseeing the monitoring of water systems,
and they are required to determine the technical, managerial
and financial capability of drinking water systems.
States have also developed operator certification programs,
and made ongoing decisions regarding the allocation of millions
of dollars in SRF loans as well as SRF grants to disadvantaged
In short, States are the primary reason that the Safe
Drinking Water Act actually works to protect the public.
One of the most notable findings of the GAO report,
however, and there is always a however, is the fact that 75
percent of State drinking water programs believe that they have
inadequate staffing, and over 90 percent project that these
staffing deficiencies will continue into the future.
While the GAO report cites many factors for these
shortfalls, it remains clear that the safety of our drinking
water supply is as dependent on people as it is on drinking
water facilities and infrastructure.
The GAO report indicates that there may be structural
reasons why States have not taken full advantage of funding
set-asides provided in the 1996 amendments. These include a
desire not to divert funds from necessary infrastructure
improvements. In effect, States may not want to rob Peter to
However, as the GAO report also notes, if such
understaffing continues, it could eventually lead to more
compliance problems and a larger enforcement workload. So
clearly we need to discern the extent of this problem and what
States can do to address it, as well as evaluate whether there
are any changes in the set-aside system which could alleviate
We should also be very mindful that the overall burden of
States is projected to increase substantially in upcoming
years. In the next few years, States will be faced with new
regulations for arsenic and radon, new disinfection by-product
rules, new standards for previously unregulated contaminants,
and possible revision of over 80 existing drinking water
regulations. We must ensure this burden does not overwhelm a
system that is apparently already taxed by existing
Altogether, I hope this hearing will provide valuable
information for the further review of the 1996 amendments. As
hard as it is to believe, we are now over halfway through the
timeframe for the implementation of the 1996 amendments.
Therefore, it is now time not only to look back at what has
been accomplished, but to look ahead at what aspects of the law
may be improved and to reauthorization 3 years hence.
The Chair now gladly yields to the gentleman from Ohio, the
ranking member, Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown. Mr. Chairman, thank you.
Our hearing this morning provides the subcommittee with an
opportunity to continue our review of the Safe Drinking Water
Act Amendments of 1996.
I want to, at the outset, register my deep concern about
the anti-environmental and anti-public health riders in the
HUD-VA appropriations bills that affect the Safe Drinking Water
Act. I will focus for a minute on arsenic, which can cause
skin, bladder, and lung cancer. The current standard of 50
micrograms per liter was established more than 50 years ago.
Virtually all experts share the view today that the current
standard is not protective of human health and needs to be
Both the World Health Organization and the European
Community have significantly strengthened their protective
standard for arsenic in drinking water. The National Research
Council in its March, 1999 report also found that the current
drinking water standard for arsenic does not protect human
health sufficiently and should be strengthened.
Our job in this body is to protect our water supply and to
protect the public. Yet, the Republican leadership of the
Committee on Appropriations has directed the EPA to ``cease all
actions relative to the enforcement'' of the current, the
weaker, the current arsenic drinking water standard. Whom are
It is irresponsible for Congress to instruct the EPA to
ignore cases in which drinking water supplies do not even
achieve the current standards of 50 milligrams per liter. As
the authorizing committee, we have a responsibility to take a
strong stance against these appropriation riders affecting the
Safe Drinking Water Act.
One of the most important provisions in the 1996 amendments
is the source water quality assessment program. The American
Metropolitan Water Association has informed us that it is more
effective and more equitable to prevent pollution in the first
place than to require drinking water suppliers to install
complex and costly treatment technologies. Prevention at the
source also protects the environment and enhances recreational
use of water sources.
One hundred million Americans are served by water systems
using ground water as the primary source. Twenty million more
Americans use private wells fed by ground water. Every State
has obtained source water assessments set-aside funding
totaling $112 million nationwide.
Today I look forward to hearing whether local source water
assessment programs have actually progressed to the point where
boundaries of the assessment areas are delineated and the
origins of the contaminants fully identified.
The estrogenic substances screening program is another
important health provision that was added in the Safe Drinking
Water Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in 1996.
The endocrine disrupter screening program, which was also
authorized in the Food Quality Protection Act, will help us
identify synthetic chemicals that affect the body's hormonal
As a member from the Great Lakes region, where endocrine
disrupters and other systemic pollutants have become
concentrated to a greater degree than any other region, I look
forward to involvement of the Office of Water in this program.
I welcome all of our witnesses today. Thank you, Mr.
Mr. Bilirakis. I thank the gentleman for his opening
Mr. Bilbray. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank you for holding this hearing, and I want to
thank you for actually allowing us to air this study that you
and I and Mr. Lazio and Mr. Bliley specifically requested.
Mr. Chairman, I guess I come here after 20 years of working
at the local level of actually providing the infrastructure
that those of us in Washington talk about so much nowadays. I
think too often those of us in Washington forget that
infrastructure is not just the buildings and pumps and pipes
essential to the operation, but as the part of the
infrastructure it is our men and women, bone and blood, that
actually make the pipes and the concrete and the steel work.
One of the things we have really been able to identify with
this study, this report, is the fact that where we focus so
often on the things of infrastructure, we forget about the
people. This report is a great indicator that we need to be
proactive. It is an opportunity and a challenge for us to be
proactive and recognize that we can build all the treatment
plants and all the infrastructure in the world, but if we do
not have the human component available to be able to operate
them in a safe and efficient manner, it will be a disaster.
Let me just sort of open my heart up and say, as somebody
who has grown up on the Mexican border and seen what has
happened when people are not trained properly, when operational
integrity is not a high priority, you see environmental
disaster after environmental disaster and people shrugging
their shoulders and saying, well, you are right, we turned the
wrong valve, or we did not operate that pump, or we made a
mistake. But after all, I am not trained to be able to do that.
I am not being paid that much. I really do not have the
expertise to run this type of plant. You can't blame me.
I think this is a great example of where we have looked
down at our crystal ball and we see that we are going to have
great, huge temples to quality water but we may not have any
priests and priestesses in there to operate it.
I just ask us to take a look at this, both Democrats and
Republicans, to take this as an opportunity and challenge to
show how we can take the theory of the Safe Drinking Water Act
and make it a reality in the United States, even in the Great
I yield back.
Mr. Bilirakis. I thank the gentleman.
The gentleman from Tennessee, who I guess maybe attends our
hearings more so than virtually any other member, and the Chair
very much appreciates that.
Mr. Bryant. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for that recognition,
and thank you also for this hearing.
I assume that with unanimous consent, any statement that I
might want to add, I can do that.
Mr. Bilirakis. Yes.
Mr. Bryant. I have no opening statement.
Mr. Bilirakis. Without objection, the opening statement of
all members of the subcommittee will be made part of the
[Additional statements submitted for the record follow:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. Clifford Stearns, a Representative in
Congress from the State of Florida
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for having this hearing. Four years have
passed since the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments were signed
into law. I remember working on that legislation--our goal at that time
was to give states and governments greater flexibility to combat
contaminants in local water systems. The debate at the time was not
whether we all shared the goal of safe drinking water--of course we all
do. Instead, we asked whether the best way to achieve that goal was
with counterproductive rules, or with state and local responsibility.
The answer was clear.
Therefore, we rewrote and modernized the SDWA. We gave money to a
state revolving loan fund (SRF) to help public water systems to comply
with the SDWA requirements. Additionally, we updated the EPA systems
for identifying new contaminants for regulation.
Now it is time to look back and evaluate the success of our
actions. We need to ask if the state revolving fund provides enough
money for public water systems to comply with the SDWA. We also must
ask if state revolving funds are sufficient to aid the states in
implementing the SDWA. If the funds are sufficient now, could they
become insufficient in the near future with compliance changes?
Another concern I have is the funding for on-site rural community
tech assistance in the Safe Water Drinking Water Act. I believe this
should be a priority in the EPA budget. Small rural communities often
have difficulty complying with SDWA requirements due to limited budgets
and technical expertise. We need to ensure environmental funding is
spent in the most efficient and effective manner possible. It has been
documented that rural water programs have resulted in more compliance
and more ground water protection programs than the alternated top-down
I hope to learn from our panel the environmental and financial
position of the Safe Drinking Water Act. We worked hard on these
revisions four years ago and I look forward to ensuring the program's
continued success. I thank the Chairman for holding this hearing and I
Prepared Statement of Hon. Brian P. Bilbray, a Representative in
Congress from the State of California
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for calling this important
hearing. As a Member of this Health and Environment Subcommittee, and
also of the Water Infrastructure Caucus, I appreciate your providing us
with this opportunity as we continue to examine the important issues
surrounding our national drinking water systems.
One of my proudest moments to date as a Member of Congress was my
close involvement with the crafting and passage of the Safe Drinking
Water Act Amendments of 1996. Among other key provisions, we
established a $9 billion dollar Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund, and
dramatically improved the process by which EPA reviews existing
drinking water standards, by requiring EPA to use the best available
science, and to focus specifically on contaminants which pose the
greatest health risk.
Last year, I joined with Chairman Bilirakis, Chairman Bliley, and
my colleague from New York Rick Lazio to request that GAO specifically
review the state implementation of the 1996 Amendments, spending
levels, and estimated ``needs.'' Clearly, one of the goals contemplated
in the 1996 Amendments was for states to be able to effectively
implement and operate these drinking water programs, and so the timing
of this hearing is very important in our oversight of the Act,
One element of the GAO report which was of particular concern to me
was the finding that over 90% of the states surveyed predicted that
their staffing levels would be less than adequate in the future, as new
program requirements and regulations take effect. Clearly, the ability
to successfully operate the appropriate equipment is critical to
maintaining and improving the drinking water provided to American
I look forward to hearing more and learning from our witnesses at
the hearing today about these important questions, and working with my
colleagues and these stakeholders to help provide the answers that will
ensure the safety of America's drinking water into this new century.
Mr. Chairman, I would also ask unanimous consent that the statement
from the Association of California Water Agencies be placed in the
hearing record at the appropriate point.
Thank you and I yield back the balance of my time.
Prepared Statement of Hon. Tom Bliley, Chairman, Committee on Commerce
I first want to thank Chairman Bilirakis for holding today's
hearing. This hearing is the third in a series of hearings which the
Subcommittee has conducted concerning the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act
Amendments and the implementation of this far reaching law.
This hearing will examine several issues. First, a new report from
the General Accounting Office which examined funding for state drinking
water programs. This report indicates that while current funding
streams may be adequate in theory, in the real world, there are some
problems and challenges ahead for funding and staffing the programs.
Seventy-five percent of states reported to GAO that their staffing
levels don't meet the requirements of the Act. Moreover, over ninety
percent of states think that these staffing problems will continue.
Since states are at the front lines in ensuring the quality of drinking
water--this is a worrisome condition.
In 1996, this Committee provided an increase in federal grants for
state drinking water programs and funded a new $9.6 billion dollar
State Revolving Fund. The GAO report appears to indicate that these
funds have been, to date, adequate for projected needs. But the GAO
report also indicates that there could be problems down the road. We
need to get to the bottom of this.
Second, this hearing will examine overall burdens on the states. As
we know from the Subcommittee's previous hearings, a number of new
requirements will take effect over the next five years, namely on radon
and arsenic. In the near future, a new ``disinfection by-products''
rule is required. EPA must also review a slew of new contaminants, plus
reevaluate standards for over 80 existing drinking water contaminants.
I believe federal requirements must be based on sound science,
realistic examination of costs and benefits and common sense
implementation. After all, it is the states that work hard to adopt and
enforce new requirements.
Finally, this hearing will serve as a status check on just how well
the 1996 Amendments are working. When the Amendments were signed into
law in August 1996, Congress and the Administration shared a vision of
revitalizing an outdated law while improving protection of the public
health. This Committee and its Members worked tirelessly to secure
passage of this major environmental and public health legislation. This
hearing, then, serves to examine whether the promise of 1996 is indeed
I look forward to receiving the testimony of our witnesses and want
to thank all members for their participation.
Prepared Statement of Hon. Gene Green, a Representative in Congress
from the State of Texas
Mr. Chairman: The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is one of the most
important pieces of public health legislation this country has ever
Since passage of the Act in 1974 this country has made dramatic
improvements in controlling hazardous runoff into our local watersheds.
The Potomac River here in Washington is now seeing the return of
fish species that were nearly wiped out in the late '70's and early
'80's due to pollution.
The progress America has achieved can be improved though.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the chief federal
regulator of clean water issues, needs to continue to improve their
scientific collections methods.
A case in point.
The EPA has taken the lead in calling for a ban on the gasoline
Incidents of MTBE contamination in California has spurred an almost
hysterical drive to ban this very beneficial gasoline additive.
I, like everyone on the Subcommittee, wants to ensure our
constituents are not exposed to harmful chemicals in their drinking
However, action already taken to reduce the presence of MTBE in
drinking water is working, but I am wondering if the EPA is aware of
these improvements and if their position on banning MTBE may also be
Mr. Chairman, I plan to discuss this issue further with Mr. Fox
during the panel discussion, but aside from this particular issue I am
quite pleased with the progress America is making to clean and improve
our drinking water supply.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. Bilirakis. That being the case, we will call the first
panel to come forward. Mr. Peter Guerrero is Director of the
Environmental Protection Issues of the General Accounting
Office, and Mr. J. Charles Fox, Assistant Administrator for
Water and with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Mr. Fox, welcome. We appreciate both of you being here.
Obviously, as you know, your written statement is part of the
record, and we will turn this on to 5 minutes.
STATEMENTS OF PETER F. GUERRERO, DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL
PROTECTION ISSUES, GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE; ACCOMPANIED BY
HELEN CROCKER, PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR ON THE GAO REPORT; AND J.
CHARLES FOX, ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR FOR WATER, ENVIRONMENTAL
Mr. Guerrero. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I also want to indicate with me is Ellen Crocker, the
principal investigator on the report that the committee is
We are here to discuss our report on ``Drinking Water:
Spending Constraints Could Affect States' Ability to Implement
Increasing Program Requirements,'' which you are releasing
Ensuring an adequate supply of safe drinking water requires
not only investing in the physical infrastructure, as
Congressman Bilbray pointed out, but also in providing
essential oversight activities performed by the States.
In recognition of the key role the States play in
implementing the requirements of this act, you asked us to
provide information on the following points:
First, how EPA's budget request for State program
implementation compare to the amounts that are authorized and
estimated to be needed; second, how much States have spent
since the passage of the 1996 amendments, and how their
expenditures compare with the estimated needs; third, what
effects Federal funding levels have had and could have in the
future on the States' ability to implement their programs; and
finally, what existing practices have the potential to help
States implement their drinking water programs more effectively
To understand these issues in context, Mr. Chairman, it is
necessary to provide a brief summary of the funding available
for implementing the States' drinking water programs.
In the 1996 amendments, Congress substantially increased
the amount of funding authorized to help States, and did so in
two regards. First, it increased funding for the public water
system supervision grants from $70 million to $100 million a
year. The States use these grants for a variety of activities
related to implementing their programs, such as providing
technical assistance to local water systems, conducting
inspections, and overseeing the water systems' compliance with
the requirements for testing and treating water to achieve
water quality standards.
Second, the amendments authorized $9.6 billion to be
appropriated to establish the drinking water revolving fund to
finance infrastructure improvements at local water systems.
While the State revolving funds are primarily directed at
these infrastructure types of improvements, each State, at its
option, may reserve or set aside up to 31 percent of its annual
allotment to the SRF to supplement supervision grants and thus
help the State meet its program responsibilities.
Although EPA does not routinely estimate the State
resources needed for implementing the act's requirements, the
Association of State Drinking Water Administrators has
periodically developed such estimates with EPA support and
According to the Association's most recent estimates, the
States will need $345 million in fiscal year 1999, and that
will grow to $449 million in fiscal year 2005. That is a 30
To answer the questions you posed, we surveyed 49 States
with program primacy, and we also conducted more in-depth
reviews in eight States.
In summary, Mr. Chairman, we found the following:
First, for fiscal years 1998 through 2000, EPA had
requested 94 percent of the amount authorized for the
supervision grants; for the same fiscal years, EPA requested
about 80 percent of the amounts authorized to capitalize the
If the States had made the maximum use of the set-asides by
reserving the full 31 percent available from the revolving
fund, EPA's requested appropriations would have provided a
total of $308 million in 1999 and $318 million in fiscal year
2000. These amounts, when combined with required matching funds
from the States themselves, would have exceeded estimates of
the needs for the two most recent years.
Second, despite the fact that the funds potentially
available exceed the estimated needs, the actual State spending
fell short. According to our nationwide survey of State
drinking water agencies, the States' actual expenditures for
implementing their programs, including expenditures of both
Federal and State funds, were $214 million, $237 million, and
$276 million, respectively, over the last 3 years.
In fiscal year 1999, the only year for which our data
permit such a comparison, total State expenditures fell short
of the estimated needs for program implementation by about 20
Our third finding is, according to our nationwide survey,
that the amounts of Federal funding available for fiscal years
1997 through 1999 had less of an impact on the States' ability
to implement their programs than did the effects of State-
imposed spending constraints.
Over 75 percent of the States reported that their staffing
levels in fiscal year 1999 were inadequate to meet the act's
requirements in effect through that year. The most frequently
cited reasons were authorized staffing and funding levels that
were too low, hiring freezes which prevented States from
filling authorized positions, and inadequate State salaries
which made it difficult to attract and retain qualified staff.
In addition, while States had collectively reserved about
half of the available SRF set-asides to address inadequate
staffing levels, they expressed a great reluctance to do so,
citing, among other things, concerns about diverting funds from
needed infrastructure projects.
Because of these constraints, Mr. Chairman, States have had
to scale back technical assistance and other oversight
activities. According to these officials, if the situation
continues it could eventually lead to further compliance
problems, especially among smaller systems. Over 90 percent of
the States in our survey predicted that their staffing levels
would be less than adequate in the future as the number of new
program requirements and complex contaminant regulations take
Finally, EPA officials cited some practices that could help
mitigate this resource shortfall. For example, EPA pointed to
new program requirements that may increase efficiency,
including those designed to assess water sources for
contamination and improve the financial, technical, and
managerial ability of local water systems to comply with the
However, it could take years to realize the benefits of
these programs. In the meanwhile, these are exactly the
programs most likely to be adversely affected by current
In conclusion, the amount of Federal funds potentially
available to the States in the last few years appear to be
adequate for meeting their estimated collective needs. However,
a number of factors may impair the future ability of the States
to meet the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Most important among these is the understandable reluctance
to divert funds from needed infrastructure improvements and
spending constraints at the State level, resulting in staffing
While the eight States we contacted have been able to meet
their statutory requirements in effect through this year, they
have done so only by scaling back their programs and doing the
minimum amount of work required. In the future, as resource
needs increase with the growth in State program
responsibilities, it will become imperative to address the
factors that have thus far limited the States' ability to fully
implement their programs.
This concludes my remarks, Mr. Chairman. I would be happy
to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Peter F. Guerrero follows:]
Prepared Statement of Prter F. Guerrero, Director, Environmental
Protection Issues, Resources, Community, and Economic Development
Division, United States General Accounting Office
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: We are here today to
discuss our report entitled, Drinking Water: Spending Constraints Could
Affect States' Ability to Implement Increasing Program Requirements,
which you are releasing today.1 Ensuring an adequate supply
of safe drinking water requires investing not only in the physical
infrastructure, such as water treatment and distribution systems, but
also in essential oversight activities performed by the states, such as
training water system operators and monitoring water systems'
compliance with the drinking water standards promulgated by the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under the Safe Drinking Water
Act Amendments of 1996, the states are responsible for implementing a
number of new requirements, such as ensuring that the nation's
thousands of drinking water systems have the financial, managerial, and
technical ability to comply with regulations and assessing the
vulnerability of drinking water sources to contamination. In addition,
the states must oversee their water systems' compliance with complex
new regulations on specific contaminants.
\1\ See GAO/RCED-00-199, Aug. 31, 2000.
In recognition of the key role that the states play in implementing
the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act, you asked us to
provide information on
how EPA's budget requests for state program implementation
compare to the amounts that are authorized and estimated to be
how much the states have spent since the passage of the 1996
amendments to implement their drinking water programs and how
their expenditures compare with estimated needs;
what effects federal funding levels have had, and could have
in the future, on the states' ability to implement their
what existing practices have the potential to help the states
implement their drinking water programs more effectively and
To understand these issues in context, Mr. Chairman, it is
necessary to provide a brief summary of the funding available for
implementing the states' drinking water programs. In the 1996
amendments, the Congress substantially increased the amount of funding
authorized to help the states meet their responsibilities. First, the
amendments authorized an increase in the funding for Public Water
System Supervision grants from $70 million to $100 million annually
through fiscal year 2003. The states use these supervision grants for a
variety of activities related to implementing their drinking water
programs, such as providing technical assistance to local water
systems, conducting inspections, and overseeing the water systems'
compliance with requirements for testing and treating water quality.
Second, the amendments authorized $9.6 billion, to be appropriated
through 2003, to establish the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund
primarily for financing infrastructure improvements at local water
systems. In its annual budgets, EPA requests appropriations to
capitalize the states' funds and, subsequently, makes specific
allotments to each state for that purpose. The states, in turn, loan
these funds to their local water systems. As loans are repaid, the
states' funds are replenished, and the states can make loans for other
eligible drinking water projects. While the state revolving funds are
primarily directed at financing local infrastructure, each state, at
its option, may reserve or ``set aside'' up to 31 percent of its annual
allotment to supplement the supervision grant and, thus, help the state
meet its responsibilities in implementing its program. The states must
match a portion of both the supervision grants and the moneys they set
aside from their revolving funds.
Despite the significant increases in the amount of funding Congress
has authorized to help states implement their programs, representatives
of state drinking water programs have expressed concerns about whether
they have sufficient resources to fulfill their responsibilities under
the Safe Drinking Water Act. Although EPA does not routinely estimate
the states' resource needs for implementing the act's requirements, the
Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) has
periodically developed such estimates with EPA's support and
participation. According to ASDWA's most recent estimate, which
incorporated the requirements of the 1996 amendments, the states'
collective needs range from $345 million in fiscal year 1999 to $449
million in fiscal 2005.
In response to the questions you asked, Mr. Chairman, we found the
In its budget requests for fiscal years 1998 through 2000, EPA
requested about 94 percent of the $100 million authorized
annually for supervision grants. For the same fiscal years, EPA
requested, on average, 80 percent of the amounts authorized to
capitalize the states' revolving funds for drinking water. If
the states had made maximum use of the set-asides by reserving
the full 31 percent available from the revolving fund, EPA's
requested appropriations would have provided a total of $308
million in fiscal year 1999 and $318 million in fiscal year
2000 to help the states meet their responsibilities in
implementing their drinking water programs. These amounts, when
combined with required matching funds from the states, would
have exceeded ASDWA's estimates of the states' needs.
Despite the fact that the funds potentially available to the
states exceed the estimated needs, actual state spending fell
short of what was needed. According to our nationwide survey of
state drinking water agencies, for fiscal years 1997 through
1999, the states' actual expenditures for implementing their
drinking water programs--including expenditures of both federal
and state funds--were $214 million, $237 million, and $276
million, respectively. In fiscal year 1999--the only year for
which our data permit such a comparison--total state
expenditures fell short of ASDWA's estimate of the amount
needed for program implementation by about 20 percent.
However, according to our nationwide survey, the amounts of
federal funding available for fiscal years 1997 through 1999
had less of an impact on the states' ability to implement their
drinking water programs than did the effects of state-imposed
spending constraints. Over 75 percent of the states reported
that their staffing levels in fiscal year 1999 were inadequate
to meet the act's requirements in effect through that year. The
most frequently cited reasons were (1) the states' authorized
staffing and authorized funding levels were too low, (2) hiring
freezes prevented the states from filling authorized positions,
and (3) inadequate state salaries made it difficult to attract
and retain qualified staff. In addition, about 40 percent of
these respondents indicated a reluctance to use revolving fund
set-asides to address inadequate staffing levels, citing, among
other things, concerns about diverting funds from
infrastructure projects. Our discussions with drinking water
officials from eight states disclosed that they have been able
to meet most requirements in effect through fiscal year 1999,
generally by scaling back technical assistance and other
oversight activities or doing the minimum amount of work
required. According to these officials, if this situation
continues, it could eventually lead to more compliance
problems, especially among small water systems, which make up
the overwhelming majority of water systems. Over 90 percent of
the states in our nationwide survey predicted that their
staffing levels would be less than adequate in the future as a
number of new program requirements and complex contaminant
regulations take effect.
Program officials in the eight states we contacted cited some
management practices that could increase the efficiency of
program implementation. For example, some states are taking
advantage of the expertise in other state and federal agencies
or associations. EPA officials pointed to new program
requirements that may increase efficiency, including those
designed to assess water sources for contamination and improve
the financial, technical, and managerial ability of local water
systems to comply with drinking water regulations. However, it
could take years to realize the benefits of these programs.
The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 authorized EPA to give the
primary responsibility for enforcing requirements of EPA's safe
drinking water program--commonly referred to as ``primacy''--to the
states that meet certain requirements. Among the key requirements are
that the states (1) adopt drinking water regulations that are no less
stringent than EPA's national primary drinking water regulations and
(2) adopt and implement adequate procedures to carry out the program's
requirements and enforce the regulations. All states, except Wyoming,
have assumed primacy for managing their drinking water programs. To
assist the states in developing and implementing their own drinking
water programs, the 1974 act authorized EPA to award them program
supervision grants and provided that the federal funds would comprise
not more than 75 percent of the cost of implementing state programs.
In addition to increasing the authorized funding for the
supervision grants, the 1996 amendments authorized $9.6 billion through
fiscal year 2003 to establish the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund
for infrastructure improvements at local water systems. To give the
states more flexibility in operating their drinking water programs, the
Congress gave the states the option of setting aside up to 31 percent
of their annual revolving fund allotments for certain designated
activities, most of which are related to program implementation. For
example, the states may set aside funds for: supervision of public
water systems; technical assistance through programs designed to
protect sources of drinking water; strategies to help ensure the
financial, technical, and managerial capacity of water systems to
provide safe drinking water; and programs to certify water system
The 1996 amendments also gave the states a number of new
responsibilities. For example, the amendments established new programs
for assessing the vulnerability of drinking water sources to
contamination and ensuring the technical, financial, and managerial
viability of water systems. As these new programs are being
implemented, states will also be overseeing the water systems'
compliance with complex new regulations on such contaminants as arsenic
THE FUNDS POTENTIALLY AVAILABLE TO THE STATES HAVE BEEN SUFFICIENT TO
COVER THEIR ESTIMATED NEEDS
For fiscal years 1998 through 2000, on average, EPA requested, as
part of the President's budget, about 94 percent of the funding
authorized for supervision grants in the Safe Drinking Water Act
Amendments of 1996 and 80 percent of the funding authorized for the
revolving fund, from which the set-asides are available. During this
period, EPA's requests for the supervision grants remained constant at
about $85 million while its requests for the revolving fund allotments
increased, making more funds available for set-asides each year, from
$212 million in fiscal year 1998 to $233 million in fiscal year 2000.
(During this period, EPA received the amount it requested for both the
supervision grants and the revolving fund, except for fiscal year 2000
when the appropriation for the revolving fund was $5 million less than
According to ASDWA, the total estimated needs for implementing the
states' programs in fiscal years 1999 and 2000 are $345 million and
$339 million, respectively. The amounts EPA requested for those years
would have been more than enough to meet the states' annual needs as
estimated by ASDWA if
the states took full advantage of the available set-asides--
that is, if each state set aside the maximum 31 percent for
state implementation activities and provided the required
the supervision grants and minimum required match were
included in the total.
The funds potentially available to the states would have exceeded
their estimated needs for fiscal years 1999 and 2000 by about $27
million and $44 million, respectively.
THE STATES' OVERALL SPENDING HAS FALLEN SHORT OF THEIR ESTIMATED NEEDS
According to the results of our nationwide survey, for fiscal years
1997 through 1999, the states' actual expenditures for implementing
their drinking water programs--including expenditures of both federal
and state funds--were $214 million, $237 million, and $276 million,
respectively. We found that the states are contributing a significant
share of the funding for their programs and are contributing more
funding than the minimum required to meet the statutory matching
provisions. Over the 3-year period, state funds were the source of 53
percent, on average, of the states' total expenditures for implementing
their drinking water programs.
Although they have contributed more funds than required by the
federal matching provisions, according to the data on state
expenditures obtained in our survey, the states collectively may be
spending less than ASDWA's estimates of the amounts needed nationwide.
For example, in fiscal year 1999--the only year for which our data
permit a direct comparison--the states' collective expenditures,
including funds from both state and federal sources, were about 80
percent of the amount estimated to be needed for program
implementation.2 If recent trends continue over the next
several years--that is, if EPA's appropriations for supervision grants
and the state revolving fund remain at about their existing levels
relative to the amounts authorized and states collectively continue to
make use of only about half of the available set-asides--then the gap
between the amounts expended and estimated to be needed could grow
larger. ASDWA estimates that by fiscal year 2005 the states will need
$449 million to implement their drinking water programs, an increase of
about 30 percent from fiscal year 1999. Table 1 shows the projected
resource needs for implementing the states' oversight programs, by
year, from fiscal years 1999 through 2005.
\2\ We collected data on how much the states spent to implement
their drinking water programs for fiscal years 1997 through 1999 only;
ASDWA estimated the amount of funding states would need to implement
their programs for fiscal years 1999 through 2005 only.
Table 1: Resource Needs for Implementing the States' Drinking Water
Programs, Fiscal Years 1999 Through 2005
Dollars in millions
Fiscal year equivalent Funding
1999.......................................... 4,911 345
2000.......................................... 5,020 339
2001.......................................... 5,190 362
2002.......................................... 5,208 374
2003.......................................... 5,588 414
2004.......................................... 5,755 439
2005.......................................... 5,252 449
Note: The estimates do not include Wyoming or the District of Columbia.
In addition, we adjusted ASDWA's estimates to exclude Puerto Rico, the
U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the
Northern Mariana Islands.
Source: GAO's presentation of data from ASDWA.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FEDERAL FUNDING LEVELS AFFECT MOST STATES' ABILITY
TO IMPLEMENT THEIR PROGRAMS
According to our nationwide survey and more detailed discussions
with drinking water officials in eight states, for fiscal years 1997
through 1999, factors other than federal funding levels affected the
states' ability to implement their drinking water programs. These
factors include both state-imposed spending constraints and concerns
about using funds from the revolving fund for program implementation
instead of infrastructure projects. Despite these factors, program
officials from all eight states we contacted told us they were able to
meet most program requirements in effect through fiscal year 1999,
largely by scaling back their programs and doing the minimum amount of
work required. For example, four states told us that they have reduced
the frequency with which they conduct comprehensive inspections of
water systems, called sanitary surveys. Officials from seven of the
eight states indicated that over the next 5 years, increasing program
responsibilities could exacerbate the effects that the states have
experienced thus far.
Factors Contributing to Inadequate Staffing Levels in State Drinking
In responding to our nationwide survey, 76 percent of the states
reported that their current staffing level is less than adequate or
much less than adequate to implement their drinking water programs.
Among these states, the most frequently cited reasons for not having an
adequate staffing level were inadequate authorized state staffing
levels (76 percent), inadequate authorized state funding levels (60
percent), state-imposed hiring freezes that prevent drinking water
program offices from filling authorized positions (41 percent), and
inadequate state salary structures that make it difficult to attract
and retain qualified staff (49 percent).
According to program officials from the eight states we contacted,
state legislatures generally authorize the number of staff that state
drinking water programs can hire and/or the amount of state funding the
programs can receive. This can create situations in which some states
have adequate authorized staffing levels to carry out program
responsibilities but not enough funding to hire all of the authorized
staff. Other states may have adequate funding but cannot hire anyone
because they have inadequate authorized staffing levels or because
there is a hiring freeze.
Five of the eight states that we looked at in-depth were
experiencing problems as a result of these circumstances. For example:
Program officials from Maine commented that even if they did
receive additional federal funds, they would not be able to
hire new permanent staff unless the authorized state staffing
level is increased.
A program official from Indiana said that the authorized state
funding level is only enough to meet the minimum match required
to obtain federal funds and estimated that the state needs to
increase its total resource level by at least 50 percent.
Program officials from two of the states that we contacted
attributed inadequate staffing levels in their programs in part to an
inability to pay staff competitive salaries, which makes it difficult
to attract and retain qualified staff. Arkansas' program had several
vacancies as a result of this problem.
In addition to state-imposed spending constraints, our nationwide
survey found that over 40 percent of the states that reported
inadequate staffing levels attributed this situation to factors that
can limit the states' use of the revolving fund set-asides to help
implement their drinking water programs.3 These factors
included concerns about using the revolving fund to implement drinking
water programs instead of using the money to fund infrastructure
projects (41 percent) and uncertainty about the continued availability
of the set-aside money from this fund after its authorization expires
(43 percent). In addition, about 30 percent of the states reporting
inadequate staffing levels said that an insufficient level of funding
for the supervision grants was a contributing factor.
\3\ During fiscal years 1997 and 1998, the only years for which
complete set-aside information is available, only 11 and 8 states,
respectively, used the full 31 percent set-aside allowed by law.
Collectively, the states reserved about two-thirds of the available
set-asides in fiscal year 1997 and took less than half of the amounts
available in fiscal year 1998.
Regarding the adequacy of the funding for the supervision grants,
program officials from four of the eight states we contacted said that
an increase in this funding might prompt their legislatures to approve
additional state funding since a small increase in state funding could
be used to match a larger amount of federal dollars. Program officials
from both Ohio and Utah commented that increasing the supervision
grants would mean that the states would not be forced to make a choice
between program implementation and infrastructure construction.
Current and Future Impact of Inadequate Staffing on the States' Ability
to Implement Their Programs
Although program officials in all of the eight states we contacted
maintain that they have been able to meet most of the program
requirements in effect through fiscal year 1999, they have done so by
(1) scaling back their programs, (2) doing the minimum amount of work
required, and (3) setting formal or informal priorities among their
responsibilities. For example, six of the eight states said they have
had to scale back their programs by providing less technical assistance
to water systems, particularly small water systems, which make up the
overwhelming majority of all public water systems. In addition, six of
the eight states currently engage in some form of priority setting
using such criteria as the size of the water system, the size of the
population at risk, the potential health effects of a violation, and
whether or not the state could lose federal funding if it did not
perform an activity.
Ninety-four percent of the states in our nationwide survey
predicted that their staffing levels would be less than adequate or
much less than adequate as new program requirements and complex
contaminant regulations take effect over the next 5 years. Similarly,
officials from seven of the eight states we contacted indicated that
the state-imposed constraints that currently affect their ability to
implement their programs--such as inadequate state staffing and funding
levels, hiring freezes, and inadequate state salary levels--will
continue to compromise their programs if not addressed. In light of
ASDWA's estimate that the states' resource needs will increase by about
30 percent between fiscal years 1999 and 2005, the effects experienced
thus far could be exacerbated in the future.
The extent to which future spending constraints will affect the
states' drinking water programs is unclear because the details of
certain regulations, and hence the resulting workload on their
programs, are unclear. For example, an Ohio official pointed out that
the cost of implementing the arsenic regulation depends on where EPA
sets the standard for this contaminant. This official said that 225
public water systems in Ohio would be affected by this regulation if
the arsenic standard were set at 10 milligrams per liter while 500
systems would be affected if the standard were set at 5 milligrams per
MANAGEMENT PRACTICES AND NEW REQUIREMENTS COULD ENHANCE THE
EFFECTIVENESS AND THE EFFICIENCY OF THE STATES' DRINKING WATER PROGRAMS
Beyond adding more funding, one potential solution to the states'
increasing responsibilities under the Safe Drinking Water Act is the
adoption of management practices that improve efficiency or otherwise
enhance the states' ability to implement their programs. Officials in
the eight states we contacted cited efforts to improve program
efficiency by adopting such new management practices as taking
advantage of the expertise in other state and federal agencies or
associations through contracts, interagency agreements, and
partnerships. Also, the EPA officials we interviewed emphasized that
new requirements to assess drinking water sources and improve water
systems' ability to comply with drinking water regulations, mandated in
the 1996 amendments, would likely increase the efficiency of state
programs over the long term. Although these new requirements would
necessitate substantial resource investments in the short term,
according to EPA officials, they will eventually improve both the
efficiency and effectiveness of the states' programs.
AGENCY COMMENTS ON OUR REPORT
We provided EPA with a draft of our report for its review and
comment. EPA officials generally agreed with the information presented
in the draft report; however, they expressed concerns in two areas.
First, the officials said that the draft report did not sufficiently
emphasize the impact of the increasing program requirements on the
states' future resource needs. We made several changes to highlight
material already in the report concerning the impact of potential state
resource shortfalls on their future program implementation. Second, the
EPA officials noted that our comparison of the funds potentially
available to the states with the needs estimated by ASDWA could be
misleading because, as our draft report indicated, most states (1) do
not take the maximum amount allowed for the revolving fund set-asides
and (2) actually have contributed much more than the minimum amounts
required for matching the EPA-provided funds. We clarified our
presentation of this comparison.
In summary, Mr. Chairman, the amounts of federal funds potentially
available to the states during the last few years appears to have been
adequate for meeting their estimated collective needs to date. However,
a number of factors may impair the future ability of the states to meet
the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Amendments of 1996. Most
important among these are the spending constraints at the state level,
resulting in staffing shortfalls, and an understandable reluctance to
divert revolving fund resources from needed infrastructure improvements
at local water systems. While the eight states we contacted have been
able to meet statutory program requirements in effect through fiscal
year 1999, they have done so only by scaling back their programs and
doing the minimum amount of work necessary. As the states' resource
needs increase along with the growth in their responsibilities, it will
become imperative to address the factors that have thus far affected
the states' ability to implement their programs.
This concludes my prepared statement. I would be pleased to answer
any questions you or Members of the Committee may have.
Contact and Acknowledgement
For future contacts regarding this testimony, please contact Peter
F. Guerrero at (202) 512-6111. Individuals making key contributions to
this testimony included Ellen Crocker, Terri Dee, Carolyn Hall, and
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you, Mr. Guerrero.
STATEMENT OF J. CHARLES FOX
Mr. Fox. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is a pleasure to be
here. I very much appreciate the committee's calling this
hearing so we can have this important discussion.
Today, Americans enjoy one of the safest drinking water
supplies in the world. Over 90 percent of Americans served by
community water systems receive water with no reported health
standard violations. However, the lesson we learned in
Milwaukee is that we can never take the safety of our drinking
water for granted.
High quality drinking water is a testament to the hard work
and dedication of water systems throughout the country, large
and small, both public and private. State officials oversee the
work of local systems, and now more than ever we rely on the
States to identify and fix problems and to work with local
systems to assure safe drinking water for the public we all
It is also important to recognize that the country would
not have the high quality drinking water system we enjoy today
without the leadership provided by Congress and the
administration in the enactment of the 1986 amendments to the
Safe Drinking Water Act.
Consistent with the goals of the 1996 amendments, the
President and Vice President have dramatically increased
funding for States' drinking water programs and for financing
drinking water infrastructure.
In addition, EPA has established an outstanding record of
success in implementing the many new and challenging
authorities called for in the 1996 amendments.
For example, the agency worked with States to successfully
establish State revolving loan funds for financing drinking
water infrastructure improvements. The agency has also worked
closely with States and a range of other stakeholders to
develop a new right-to-know program, and new drinking water
standards within the tight timeframes established in the 1996
I want to publicly commend all the EPA staff that have
worked so hard over the past several years to build this record
My written statement describes many of our actions in more
detail. I would like to highlight some of the important
initiatives we have taken to strengthen public health
Most scientists and drinking water systems, managers agree
that the most significant threat to public health is microbial
contaminants, such as E. coli or Cryptosporidium. Exposure to
these contaminants can include severe infections that can last
for several weeks and, in some cases, might result in death.
This spring EPA proposed the ground water rule and the
long-term enhanced surface water treatment rule to address
microbial health concerns to consumers. When finalized, these
rules will complete a cycle of microbial protection with
existing rules so all water systems, whether big or small,
whether their source water is ground water or surface water,
whether public or private, have basic protections, including
filtration, disinfection, and monitoring, as appropriate to the
I am also pleased to announce that on September 6 a Federal
advisory committee reached agreement on the second phase of
these rules. We will be issuing a formal notice in the Federal
Register later this fall to begin an extensive process of
collaboration with interested parties prior to future
Consistent with Congress' direction, EPA has also issued a
proposed rule to lower the maximum contaminant level of
arsenic, another high priority drinking water contaminant. It
is a known carcinogen, and also linked to many known noncancer
In a March 1999 report, the National Academy of Sciences
found that the current standard of 50 parts per billion does
not provide adequate human health protection, and recommended
that the EPA lower the MCL as quickly as possible. The agency
proposed a standard of 5 parts per billion, and also asked for
comments on 10 and 20 parts per billion.
I understand this proposal has significant interest, and I
am happy to talk about it in greater detail later today or at
any time in the future.
You asked that I also address State funding for the
implementation of the 1996 amendments. I believe that by
working together, Congress and the administration have, in
fact, provided the resources that EPA, States, and others need
to assure the effective implementation of the amendments.
Since the early 1990's, the Clinton-Gore Administration has
proposed and Congress has provided dramatically increased
resources for implementation grants to the States. The funding
has increased almost threefold in less than 10 years from the
basic implementation grant account. In addition, Congress and
the administration agreed to include in the 1996 law the
discretionary authority to set aside drinking water SRF funds
to support State programs.
Although not all States have chosen to use the full amount
of funding that is available to them, as you can see in the
chart attached to my testimony, the funding available to the
States since the 1996 amendments passed has almost quadrupled.
I do want to note that this situation may change in coming
years as workloads increase, and we urge that future
administrations and future Congresses will want to pay very
close attention to this situation.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I am confident that the
safety, security, and availability of drinking water will
always be at the top of the American public's agenda. You can
trust that EPA will continue to work with Congress, the States,
local governments, and others to identify and develop the best
mechanism to help deliver safe water that protects public
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of J. Charles Fox follows:]
Prepared Statement of J. Charles Fox, Assistant Administrator for
Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to address the
Subcommittee today on the important work that the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) is doing, in cooperation with States and
drinking water systems, to assure that all Americans have drinking
water that is safe.
Today, Americans enjoy one of the safest drinking water supply
systems in the world. Over 90% of Americans served by community water
systems receive water with no reported health standard violations.
The high quality of our drinking water is a testament to the hard
work and dedication of the managers and staff of water systems
throughout the country--large and small, publicly owned and private--
who are the first line of defense in assuring safe drinking water.
State officials oversee the work of local systems and are essential
to keeping the promise of safe drinking water. Now more than ever, we
rely on States to identify and fix problems and to work with local
systems to ensure safe drinking water long into the future.
It is also important to recognize that the country would not have
the high quality drinking water system that we enjoy today without the
leadership provided by the Congress in the enactment of the 1996
amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The SDWA amendments,
which the Clinton Administration played a major role in developing,
invigorated the core drinking water program and provided new direction
to federal, State and local governments and the drinking water
community. The 1996 amendments moved us toward more comprehensive
drinking water protection by:
improving the way EPA sets drinking water safety standards
based on good science and data;
addressing some of the highest public health risks;
expanding consumer information and involvement;
providing over 3 billion dollars in funding for infrastructure
investments for communities;
emphasizing prevention through source water assessments,
capacity development, and operator certification; and
attending to some of the most pressing problems of small water
In addition to playing a leadership role in developing the key
elements of the SDWA amendments, the Administration has also
dramatically increased funding for State safe drinking water programs
and for financing of drinking water infrastructure.
Perhaps more important, EPA has established an outstanding record
of success in implementing the many new and challenging authorities
called for by the SDWA amendments--a total of some 55 new Federal
responsibilities. The Agency worked with States to successfully
establish State Revolving Loan Funds for financing drinking water
infrastructure improvements. The Agency has worked closely with States
and a range of other stakeholders to develop strong and practical new
drinking water standards within the very tight timeframes established
in the SDWA amendments. And, we have worked with all interested parties
to improve the long-term protection of sources of drinking water. I
want to publicly commend all the EPA staff who have worked so hard over
the past several years to build an outstanding drinking water program.
I believe that the outstanding quality of the drinking water
program we have today is the best evidence that we will be able to do
even better in the coming years. We will do better in our efforts to
identify contaminants of special concern. We will do better in helping
communities finance needed system improvements. We will do better in
planning for the long-term safety of sources of drinking water. And, we
will accomplish this work hand-in-hand with State and local officials,
citizens, and the Congress.
My testimony today will review some of the work we have done to
implement the SDWA amendments, describe some of the funding issues that
the program faces, and identify some of the challenges that we will be
working on in the coming years.
SUCCESS IN MEETING SDWA MANDATES
The 1996 SDWA amendments gave the entire drinking water community,
but especially EPA, new marching orders and many new challenges,
including regulating high risk contaminants, improving consumer right-
to-know about drinking water quality, protecting source waters, and
financing system improvements.
Regulating High-Risk Contaminants
In the past two years, we have proposed or finalized a series of
new rules that address microbial and other high risk contaminants in
The Administration and Congress agree that the most significant
threat to public health is microbial contamination, such as E.coli and
Cryptosporidium. Adverse health effects from exposure to microbial
pathogens in drinking water are well documented. As we have seen in
Milwaukee and New York--and most recently in our neighbor, Ontario,
Canada--these health effects can include severe infections that can
last several weeks and may result in death.
This Spring, EPA proposed the Ground Water Rule and the Long Term 1
Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule to address the health threats to
consumers by microbial contamination in ground water systems.
When promulgated, these rules will complete a cycle of microbial
protection with the Interim Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule,
issued in 1998. Together, these rules will cover all consumers of water
provided by public water systems and significantly reduce threats to
human health from microbial disease.
Disinfection of drinking water to protect from microbial
contamination is one of the major public health advances in the 20th
century. However, the disinfectants themselves can react with
naturally-occurring materials in the water to form unintended
byproducts that may pose health risks. EPA's Disinfectants/Disinfection
Byproducts Rule, released with the Interim Enhanced Surface Water
Treatment Rule in 1998, addresses the potential health threats that may
be related to the disinfection process itself. It strengthens standards
for trihalomethanes, establishes new drinking water standards for seven
disinfectant byproducts and three disinfectants, and requires treatment
techniques to further reduce exposure to disinfection byproducts.
The risk-risk tradeoff between disinfectants and their byproducts
makes decisions about treatment difficult. However, the extensive
stakeholder process that EPA used to develop these complex rules has
assured that the new requirements are well supported and understood.
I am pleased to announce that on September 6th, a Federal Advisory
Committee--with whom the Agency has been discussing efforts on
microbial contaminants, the disinfectants used to treat these
contaminants, and disinfection byproducts resulting from the
treatment--reached agreement on the second phase of these rules. This
agreement builds on both the results of the microbial and disinfection
byproducts research that is currently ongoing and a massive data
collection effort on contaminant occurrence. It will strengthen and
expand the human health protections provided in the rules promulgated
In November 1999, EPA proposed the Radon Rule, which will have an
important impact on reducing the human health risk from radon in
drinking water as well as in indoor air from soil. Radon in indoor air
is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.
Although the risk posed by radon from drinking water is much smaller
than that from indoor air, the 1999 report from the National Academy of
Sciences confirmed that radon in drinking water causes cancer.
Because of the multimedia nature of radon risk, Congress, in the
SDWA Amendments, created a unique multimedia mitigation approach to
allow local flexibility in addressing both risks. Our approach of an
alternative maximum contaminant level and multimedia mitigation program
accurately and fully reflects the 1996 SDWA amendments' provisions to
protect public health, and will result in a reduction of cancer cases
from both indoor air and drinking water in a cost-effective manner.
Consistent with the Congress' direction, EPA has also issued a
proposed rule to lower the maximum contaminant level for arsenic,
another high-priority drinking water contaminant. Arsenic is a known
carcinogen and is also linked to many non-cancer health effects. In a
March 1999 report, the National Academy of Sciences' National Research
Council found that the current, 50-year-old arsenic standard of 50
parts per billion does not provide adequate human health protection,
and recommended that EPA lower the MCL as quickly as possible.
The Agency proposed a standard of 5 parts per billion and also
asked for comments on 3, 10, and 20 parts per billion. Last month we
held a day-long, public meeting on this proposed rule in Reno, Nevada.
Over 140 people attended in person and another 40 or so joined in the
discussion via telephone. While we knew there was considerable interest
in this proposed rule, the attendance at this meeting serves as a good
indicator that the comments submitted on this rule will be significant.
In addition, we expect a report on this proposed rule from the
Agency's Science Advisory Board (SAB) in the next few weeks. This SAB
assessment, as well as the numerous public comments submitted on the
proposed rule, will be thoroughly evaluated as EPA develops the final
regulation on arsenic.
The Clinton Administration has a strong commitment to the right of
consumers to know the quality of the water that they drink. We made
expanded consumer information a top priority in the development of the
SDWA amendments and have worked hard to assure the effective
implementation of new right-to-know authorities. In addition, drinking
water systems are making outstanding progress in providing information
The new ``consumer confidence'' reports give customers of drinking
water systems the information they need to make their own health
decisions. Today, approximately 253 million Americans have access to
their annual consumer confidence report. Over 100 million Americans are
able to read their water quality report online. These reports provide
information the public is demanding.
The public also needs immediate information about drinking water
health threats so they can protect themselves and their children. EPA
recently completed revisions to the Public Notification Rule, which now
requires faster notice in emergencies--specifically, within 24 hours.
While providing for faster and clearer communication to consumers, the
rule will also reduce the burden to water systems by requiring fewer
notices overall and enabling water systems to better target notices to
the seriousness of the risk.
Finally, EPA continues to respond to the public about drinking
water issues. In 1999, EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline received over
10,000 calls from consumers about their water quality, most coming near
the October, 1999 deadline for the first consumer confidence report.
EPA's Local Drinking Water Information website is accessed over 5,000
times per month.
Preventing Contamination of Drinking Water
The 1996 SDWA amendments recognized that a robust program to
prevent contamination of drinking water supplies and efforts to ensure
reliable systems are necessary and cost-effective approaches to address
current and emerging problems.
Effective drinking water protection has to start with an
understanding of the threats to the water source. States are making
significant progress in development of source water assessments. Fifty
States/Territories have an EPA-approved Source Water Assessment and
Prevention Program and are conducting assessments for the water
To support source water assessment and prevention activities,
States were provided a one year only, FY1997, set-aside that allowed
them to use up to10 percent of their Drinking Water State Revolving
Fund allotment to support their source water delineations and
The total amount available for this set-aside was approximately
$124 million; all States and Territories actually set aside close to
$112 million, or 90 percent of the amount available. While the set-
aside itself was limited to one year, the States have four years to
obligate these funds.
Preventing drinking water contamination also means that water
systems must have the financial, technical, and managerial ability to
meet new challenges and continue to provide safe drinking water to
their consumers. As required by the 1996 SDWA amendments, EPA has
developed guidance to States on both capacity development programs and
programs to ensure that all water systems have access to a fully
All States are developing their capacity development and operator
certification programs. We are optimistic that they will meet the
statutory requirements and deadline so as to avoid the penalty of a 10
percent reduction for capacity development and a 20 percent reduction
for operator certification from their State Revolving Loan Fund
allocation in FY 2001.
Drinking Water State Revolving Fund
The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) has been extremely
successful in less than 4 years of operation. From its four year (FYs
97,98,99, 00) aggregate appropriations of some $3.6 billion, EPA has
given out nearly $2.7 billion in revolving loan grants to all 50
States, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and the Territories.
States have made over 1,200 loans totaling over $2.3 billion to
water systems to address the most significant public health needs.
Small water systems have been a focus of the DWSRF. Nearly three-
fourths of all DWSRF loans awarded have gone to systems serving fewer
than 10,000 persons.
EPA Cooperation with States and Drinking Water Systems
As EPA has implemented SDWA, we have tried to ameliorate some of
the demands that the requirements place on our partners, especially the
We have had extensive stakeholder involvement in our actions,
including a particular focus on small water systems. This has improved
the quality of our rules and has resulted in increased flexibility to
States and water systems.
The SDWA amendments provide the authority to accommodate the needs
and concerns of small systems and to emphasize technologies as a cost-
effective approach to achieve compliance with our rules. We have worked
hard to make effective use of this authority.
We have also given the regulated community advance notice of new
requirements, so that they may better prepare. The new Contaminant
Candidate List process that Congress added to SDWA in 1996 gives us a
fair and workable way to identify and address the highest risks to
public health. We will also attempt to consolidate rules by type to
move away from a contaminant-by-contaminant approach to regulation.
As we develop our rules, we have taken into consideration the
impacts that other rulemakings will have on the regulated community. We
have tailored rules to consider local or regional considerations. We
have phased implementation components where possible. We have worked to
improve the capacity of water systems to meet these new requirements
through early and improved technical assistance, training, outreach,
and funding through the DWSRF.
Finally, we are working to lessen the pressure on water systems as
the last line of defense by promoting tools for watershed and source
water protection through such mechanisms as the SDWA's source water
protection programs and the Clean Water Act.
FUNDING SAFE DRINKING WATER PROGRAMS
Mr. Chairman, in your letter of invitation to this hearing, you
asked that I address funding for the implementation of the SDWA
amendments, both now and in the future.
I am confident that, working together, Congress and the
Administration have provided the resources that EPA, States, and others
needed to assure the effective implementation of the SDWA amendments.
Since the early 1990s, the Clinton Administration had proposed, and
Congress has provided, dramatically increased resources for Public
Water Supply Supervision (PWSS) grants to the States. These grants
provide support to States in their role as primary implementors of
drinking water programs.
The funding for PWSS grants has increased from a level of $39.3
million in FY-90, to $72.2 million in FY 96, and almost $94.0 million
in FY's 1998, 1999, and 2000--an almost threefold increase in less than
10 years. (Note that roughly 10% of PWSS funding has been used by EPA
to implement drinking water programs for Territories, Tribes, and
States not implementing the program.) States must match these federal
funds by providing at least one dollar for every three federal dollar
received, but usually provide more.
Congress and the Administration recognized that adequate funding
for drinking water programs called for in the new SDWA amendments would
be essential to the success of the program. We agreed to include in the
new law authority for States to use some of the funds provided to them
through the DWSRF to support program management activities. The
authority to ``set-aside'' the DWSRF funds is discretionary to each
State. Many States have chosen to use this new authority to supplement
State funds and the federal funds available under the PWSS grant
I understand your question, Mr. Chairman, to be whether these
various funding sources are sufficient to support implementation of the
strong drinking water program called for in the SDWA amendments. I
believe that the short answer to that question is ``yes.'' At the same
time, it is important to note that not all States have chosen to use
the full amount of funding that is available to them. And, as the
program evolves in the coming years, some funding shortfalls may
I have attached to my testimony a graph that illustrates the
funding increases for drinking water program implementation over the
FUTURE CHALLENGES FOR THE DRINKING WATER PROGRAM
The challenges facing the entire drinking water community are
indeed daunting. Protection of drinking water safety has always
required constant vigilance and a proactive approach to emerging
threats. That is still the case today. We can continue to meet these
challenges through the framework provided by the SDWA, but it will
require concerted effort by everyone in the drinking water community.
The cost of providing safe drinking water--finding a water supply,
treating the water, delivering the water, and maintaining the system--
will continue to be a challenge. EPA's 1997 Drinking Water Needs Survey
Report to Congress identified over $138 billion in industry needs with
the vast majority of these needs targeted for delivery of water, rather
than for meeting SDWA regulatory requirements. EPA is committed to
working with Congress, the States, the drinking water industry, and
consumers to ensure that Americans continue to receive safe, affordable
drinking water into the future.
The impressive successes of drinking water systems, States, and
Federal agencies in providing safe water to all Americans should not
lull us into a false sense of security. This success is a result of
daily efforts to address constant risks and challenges.
While some threats have been eliminated and some require continual
management, new challenges are arising, including--
unknown, or newly emerging contaminants;
a pace of development that may threaten source water quality
if not properly managed;
an expanding and aging population that increasingly includes
those with special health concerns;
increasing demand and competition for water that strains
a need for high-quality research on health effects and
a need for accurate information on compliance with drinking
water standards; and
a need for data that is reliable and accurate and information
systems that can serve as a user-friendly reference for the
drinking water community and the general public.
I am confident that the safety, security, and availability of
drinking water will always be at the top of the American public's
agenda. EPA will continue to work tirelessly with Congress, the States,
localities, and others to identify and develop the best mechanisms for
full and appropriate implementation of drinking water protection
Thank you again for the opportunity to discuss these important
issues. I would be happy to address any questions you may have at this
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you, Mr. Fox.
Mr. Fox, just to start the questions, does EPA essentially
agree with the findings of GAO?
Mr. Fox. At this point we haven't seen the final report. As
you know, it was just released today. We did comment on a draft
I have reviewed the draft summary of this report. Again, it
is difficult, because I have not seen the final, but the draft
report certainly is consistent with our understanding of the
current states of financing today with the State programs.
Mr. Bilirakis. Well, I appreciate that. And with all
respect, the question is, was EPA aware that 75 percent of
States had inadequate staffing levels in their drinking water
The GAO report assembled information on State funding for
drinking water programs, and the EPA, did they or did they not
possess that information?
I guess basically the question goes to, would you expect
that you would agree that EPA would agree ultimately, once you
are able to look at this report, with the findings of the GAO?
If that is the case, maybe you can share with this committee
what EPA has been doing or is planning to do regarding some of
Mr. Fox. We will, needless to say, offer for the committee
our very specific comments on the GAO report. I would be happy
to provide that.
In general, I think the conclusions of the report are fair.
That is, there perhaps are some deficiencies today at the State
level for implementation of these programs. However, I think
the report shows that the solutions to this are fairly
I think, frankly, when we step back we see that the
Congress and the administration--we really rose to the
challenge together--we provided sizable new investments for
drinking water programs.
One of the overarching conclusions of the GAO report is
that the Federal Government has really stepped up to the plate
and provided sizable new investments, in some cases quadrupling
the total Federal investment in a very short period of time,
but there has not been the commensurate State level investment
in these programs.
I think this is a challenge for all of us. I don't mean to
intend to point fingers here. This is an opportunity for all of
us to try to solve a problem that I think we all owe to the
Mr. Bilirakis. I would ask, of course, that you provide to
the committee your comments on the GAO report. You have already
mentioned you are willing to do that. That is important that we
[The following was received for the record:]
EPA agrees with the GAO's finding that funding and
opportunities provided by congressional appropriations in
addition to the required State match is sufficient to help
States meet their current responsibilities under the Safe
Drinking Water Act (SDWA), if States are able to use those
funds. EPA acknowledges that many States face certain barriers,
at the State level, to using these funds and we are committed
to working with States to help them overcome these barriers. If
we are not successful in this effort, States will face critical
resource problems meeting their current responsibilities to
protect public health. As more regulations are promulgated in
the future, these resource problems will grow.
In the early 1990s, implementation of State drinking water
programs was severely hampered by a lack of resources. A
widely-held criticism was that the federal government was not
providing sufficient funds to the States to cover an
appropriate share of the costs of the drinking water program.
Between Fiscal Years 1990 and 2000, federal funds for the
Public Water System Supervision (PWSS) grant program have
increased from $39.3 million to almost $94.0 million. The
Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (DWSRF), authorized in
the 1996 SDWA Amendments, provides the means for States to
access even greater amounts of federal funds for use in
implementing their drinking water programs. The States must
decide the balance in use of SRF funds between infrastructure
financing and State program support. On average, States are not
setting aside the full level of funds that are available for
State program support, and are not spending the funds that they
have set aside. The GAO report shows that States had only
expended approximately 20 percent of the more than $400 million
that they had reserved to conduct set-aside activities.
There are several reasons that States do not set aside the
full level of available funds. When forced to choose between
helping water systems improve their infrastructure or funding
State implementation, assistance or compliance programs, the
latter is not always the highest priority. Further, of those
States that have set-aside funds from the DWSRF for program
implementation, many have not been able to actually make use of
those set asides because of State-imposed funding constraints.
Inability to increase State-authorized staffing levels, hiring
freezes, and inadequate salaries, which make it difficult for
States to hire and retain qualified staff, have all played a
role in limiting program implementation. Adequate funding for
State programs is currently available, but that funding is not
yet fully accessible and there is competition for those funds
from other critical public health priorities.
Mr. Bilirakis. But Mr. Brown has mentioned arsenic
downstairs in our little bit of a press conference regarding
this hearing. He mentioned radon, et cetera.
EPA apparently is considering changing the standards on
arsenic. We want them to do what is consistent with human
health. I was just asking counsel if EPA had contacted us
regarding changes they feel maybe are necessary in the statutes
to afford them to be able to do a better job as intended by the
1996 amendments, if you will. He tells me he is not aware of
that. Maybe there has been, but he is not aware of it.
It is critical that we do the fundamentals, too. We are
talking about changing standards. Maybe they are necessary, and
maybe they are not necessary. Your statement indicates that EPA
will fully evaluate an upcoming scientific advisory assessment
I would note that a draft report of the SAB, which was just
issued a few days ago, raises significant questions regarding
EPA's use of the 1999 National Research Council report on
I understand you cannot be expected to respond to a draft
report. I am not asking you to do so. However, can we at least
have some assurance that all comments and recommendations of
the Scientific Advisory Board will be given proper credit in
any decision on the final standard?
Mr. Fox. There is no question they will, Mr. Chairman. In
fact, we are going to be considering all the comments that we
receive before we make any final decisions.
If I could just make one comment about arsenic, there have
been a lot of questions about the number that we recommended. I
will be the first to admit that one of the most difficult jobs
in my position is picking a number for drinking water
standards, because you have to weigh a lot of different
information in making that decision.
The current standard is 50 parts per billion. Pretty much
everybody would agree that this standard is woefully
unprotective of public health. The National Academy of Sciences
has said that.
Mr. Bilirakis. Many States have a stricter standard, do
Mr. Fox. That is correct. However, you will hear later from
analysts here today. One group in their comments said we should
have picked a number at 3 parts per billion, and another group
on the water suppliers side said we should have picked a number
about 10 parts per billion. We ended up at about 5.
If you do a straight line interpretation of the National
Academy of Sciences report, you could end up with a number much
smaller than 5. There is a lot of scientific uncertainty, I
will be the first to admit it. Everybody is certainly pointing
in the direction, in my opinion, that this number has to be
much, much lower, and in the zone of 3 to 10 parts per billion,
to be protective of public health.
Mr. Bilirakis. I have no position on that. Basically what I
am saying is that we should be concerned about that. But again,
the States have the obligation to implement these things and
enforce them. If they are not doing their job adequately, then
we have to address that problem, and in fact probably address
it maybe in a more primary manner, if you will, than being
concerned about possibly focusing on changing standards. We can
change all the standards we want, but if they are not put in
place, what good are they?
Mr. Fox. That is correct.
Mr. Bilirakis. Mr. Brown, to inquire.
Mr. Brown. Thank you.
Mr. Fox, I would like to agree with you when you said that
everybody thinks that 50 is too weak. Unfortunately, a majority
of this Congress apparently does not think that.
Comment on that, if you would. We tried to strip that on a
floor amendment and were unsuccessful; that is, the reporting
action ``to cease all actions relative to enforcement'' of the
current standard that you say no one agrees with anymore.
Mr. Fox. In your opening statement, Mr. Brown, you referred
to an anti-environmental rider. Some on the other side of the
aisle have suggested to me that this is an appropriate
condition of funding discretion.
Whatever you call it, there is no question in my mind,
having spent a lot of time on this subject, that that language
included in the House appropriations bill is wholly
irresponsible. When you are concerned about protecting public
health, there is no question that the current standards of 50
parts per billion is not protective of public health.
There are some drinking water systems with arsenic at that
level. A strict interpretation of the House language is going
to prevent us from providing public health protections to those
communities around the country. I think that is very
Mr. Brown. Thank you.
Mr. Stupak, whose district actually borders, I believe,
three of the Great Lakes, and my district, which borders Lake
Erie, he and I worked to include language on estrogenic
substances in the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Amendments. There
was an endocrine disrupter screening program which was
authorized in the Food Quality Protection Act which is underway
I understand much of EPA's work on that is handled by other
branches of the agency. The Office of Water received $1 million
this fiscal year for work on endocrine disrupters. You expect
to receive similar amounts this year and into the future.
Describe the Office of Water's activities, if you would, on
endocrine disrupters for us.
Mr. Fox. First let me say that endocrine disrupters do pose
a potential risk to public health. We are still doing a number
of research investigations into trying to define that risk more
The administration was supportive of the language that you
and your colleagues put into the Safe Drinking Water Act, as
well as other colleagues put into the Food Quality Protection
Act. We are embarking on a screening program to assess whether
or not these chemicals are found in our food supply or in our
The Office of Water has a $1 million program that will
support our working with the Office of Research and Development
to look specifically at drinking water treatment systems,
examining closely as to what chemicals are found in their
effluent, what chemicals are found in different places in their
treatment processes, and ultimately what chemicals might be
found in the treated water that comes out of the plant. Our
intent is to get a much better understanding as to what is the
exposure to the American public to endocrine-disrupting
chemicals is and a better understanding of what these treatment
plants will actually provide in the way of treatment for these
This is a $1 million program, so it is a sizable one but
not a very large one. We are anticipating that the work will
begin in fiscal year 2001 and we will have a report before the
end of 2001.
Mr. Brown. Thank you.
Mr. Guerrero, your testimony tells us that the primary
reason that States cannot properly implement their drinking
water programs is not Federal funding levels but State-imposed
spending constraints that force inadequate staffing levels.
Could you elaborate on the results of your 49-State survey
with respect to these State barriers?
Mr. Guerrero. Yes. There are some States that have limits
on the amount of funds that could be spent in this program
area. Some States have limits on the number of staff they can
devote to this program. Some States are struggling with
problems in terms of attracting the expertise they need because
of compensation levels which do not allow them to compete
effectively in the market for the kinds of expertise they need.
All of those factors contribute to various problems in
having the right kind of staff and the right numbers of staff.
Mr. Brown. Would you will be willing to provide this
committee the individual State response to the GAO survey, if
Mr. Guerrero. We would certainly entertain that request if
you were to make that.
Mr. Brown. I just did. You would provide those to us
Mr. Guerrero. We have a policy, a draft policy, as you
know, that allows for access to workpapers. We ask that that
request be put in writing, and we would then consider it and
get back to you.
Mr. Brown. That is not a very definite answer. That is the
best you can do? I will write a note to you and hand it to you.
You will consider it then, or you will get us the report, then?
Mr. Guerrero. We will consider it and get back to you
Mr. Bilirakis. If I may, I think it is a very meritorious
question. It would help us an awful lot. I think you would
agree, Mr. Guerrero.
Mr. Guerrero. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Brown. There are two of us that want that.
Mr. Bilirakis. Do you want something from the committee in
Mr. Guerrero. Let me explain some of the considerations.
When we make determinations to turn over actual workpapers for
products like this. Of course we are obviously concerned about
things like privacy and information that was provided to us
with pledges of confidentiality. That is why I caveated my
response to you.
I am not aware in this particular case that we have those
particular problems, but there is a sensitivity in terms of
comparing States with one another and who is doing better than
somebody else. That was not the purpose of this particular job.
If there is a bipartisan agreement that we provide that
information, we would be happy to.
Mr. Bilirakis. We also do not want to put your work into a
dangerous position, either. We bank on your work so very much.
Mr. Guerrero. The concern here is that in order to be of
service to you in answering these questions, it requires some
level of confidence on the part of the States that if they
provide us information that they view as sensitive, that can
put them in a situation that makes them look bad in some
circumstances and relatively better in others, that they
understand whether that information is likely to come up in the
public domain or not.
If that is going to compromise our ability to collect that
information in the future, we would like to work with you on
Mr. Brown. Thank you for teaching me the word ``caveated.''
I had never heard that.
Mr. Bilirakis. You are from Ohio.
Mr. Brown. I am from Ohio.
Most of this information is about State staffing levels.
That is public information in the States. We are asking you to
pass that information along to us. That is not a question of
confidentiality. That is in public domain already in the
Mr. Guerrero. That is exactly right. That is the kind of
consideration we look at. To the extent this is in the public
Mr. Bilirakis. I would think EPA would have this
information. Is that true?
Mr. Fox. We certainly have some of it. I would pledge that
whatever information you cannot get from GAO, that we will be
of help. We will do our best to provide it to you.
Mr. Bilirakis. Okay. Maybe we can ask the staffs to get
together with your staffs in terms of the wording of the letter
so we can get what we think we need but at the same time not
jeopardize your future efforts.
[The following was received for the record:]
U.S. House of Representatives,
Committee on Commerce,
September 25, 2000
The Honorable David M. Walker,
U.S. General Accounting Office,
441 G Street, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20548
Dear Mr. Walker: On September 19, 2000 the Subcommittee on Health
and Environment received testimony from Mr. Peter Guerrero, Director of
Environmental Protection Issues, General Accounting Office (GAO),
regarding GAO's report titled Drinking Water: Spending Constraints
Could Affect States' Ability to Meet Increasing Program Requirements.
Given the reliance of that report and Mr. Guerrero's testimony on a
survey of state drinking water program's administrative expenditures
conducted by the GAO earlier this year, we requested during the hearing
that GAO provide the Subcommittee and its members with copies of the
individual survey responses.
We wish to renew in writing our earlier, oral request for these
survey documents, and request that GAO provide this material no later
than the close of business on October 6, 2000.
We appreciate your attention to this request. If you have any
questions regarding this matter, please have your staff contact Mr.
Joseph Stanko, Majority counsel, at 225-2927, or Mr. Richard Frandsen,
Minority counsel, at 225-3641. Thank you for you cooperation with the
Michael Bilirakis, Chairman,
Subcommittee on Health and Environment
Sherrod Brown, Ranking Member,
Subcommittee on Health and Environment
United States General Accounting Office,
Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division,
October 4, 2000
The Honorable Michael Bilirakis,
Chairman, Subcommittee on Health and Environment,
Committee on Commerce,
House of Representatives
The Honorable Sherrod Brown,
Ranking Minority Member,
Subcommittee on Health and Environment,
Committee on Commerce,
House of Representatives
In response to your request, we are transmitting copies of the
individual state responses to our nationwide survey on the states'
expenditures to implement their drinking water programs. Because of the
sensitivity of these data and the difficulty of making meaningful
comparisons among the states, we included only aggregate data on the
states' expenditures in our report. We suggest that caution be
exercised in drawing comparisons among the states because a variety of
factors influence the level of state expenditures. Such factors include
the number and type of water systems in a state, a state's size and
population, and the type and incidence of contamination.
We did not validate the responses provided by the states. However,
when a state's initial survey response contained gaps or apparent
discrepancies, we followed up with the appropriate state officials and
noted any corrections on the survey document. In addition, once the
data were computerized, we ran a series of data checks to ensure that
the data were consistently reported and made corrections as necessary.
For example, one data check detected states' errors in calculating
their minimum matching contributions. Thus, we are also providing a
spreadsheet with the adjusted expenditures, which served as a basis for
the aggregate data included in our report.
David G. Wood,
Director, Natural Resources and Environment
[Information on State data is retained in subcommittee files.]
Mr. Bilirakis. Mr. Bilbray.
Mr. Bilbray. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me say that the conversation that just went on I think
was a very healthy one. I think, in all fairness, a lot of us
say, why can't we get this information, and do not understand
the defensive mechanisms that can be thrown up by bureaucracy
I appreciate the fact that you try to keep those lines of
communication open and eliminate the paranoia or the
justification for restricting information to this body. I think
the information is more important, and I'm sure the ranking
member is sensitive to that.
Mr. Fox, I want to thank you for pointing out the reality,
where the real threats lie on the first stage, but also the
fact we need to talk about this. Microbial contamination is not
something that gets a lot of high profile attention by those of
us in politics. It is not sexy to talk about that, but it is
sexy to talk about poisoning the waters.
Frankly, I appreciate the fact that you placed that--that
here it is the No. 1 threat. We have other things we have to
do. The arsenic is a good example. I guess a lot of us like to
talk about arsenic because it equates to--people kind of
picture that as to someone is pouring poison into our water,
when in fact a high percentage of the problem is ambient
background arsenic that exists naturally.
My biggest concern, though, is that as we talk about these
components, that we take a look at where we need to go in the
future. Here is this issue about the States having the ability
to actually implement the law.
Let me be very frank. When I come to Washington, I do worry
about drinking the water that the Federal Government provides
within this district. I don't worry about it in San Diego
mostly because I have more faith in the oversight and the
operations in San Diego than I do in DC.
Does that sound harsh? I think if you look at what has
happened in the last 10 years with the water quality problems
in this city, I don't think it is harsh. I think what we are
talking about here is a real life experience that if I need to
trust somebody to do my oversight, I sort of trust the States
and the local communities a little more than I do the Federal
Government when it comes down to the practical application of
So what I see here is this issue of do we look at providing
the resources for oversight, and is it best spent for the
public resources at the Federal level here in Washington, or at
the local level in the communities?
I don't mean to make this an ``us and them,'' but I think
that we may need to be talking about the fact that is it better
to have the infrastructure of water quality control at the
State, and I prefer the local level, but I am prejudiced to it.
I admit to that. I come from that background, and I am as
prejudiced as holy hell on this issue.
But I think that my own personal experience about the
concern of the Federal oversight locally, in this town, is the
fact that I think that level of confidence is something we all
have to just adapt to.
When we talk about the use of our resources, is there a
degree of concern here that we may be redirecting Federal
resources to the local community, or are you guys open to the
fact that we need to take a look at oversight, and that local
and State oversight usually tends to be the most cost-effective
when it comes down to it?
I use an example--and again, my own prejudice--again, the
implementation of the Clean Air Act of having the major
oversight being local and State, and then the secondary
standard-setting kind of thing being the Federal.
Would you like to comment on that?
Mr. Fox. First, your experience in California for both air
and water is somewhat unique relative to the rest of the
Nation. Those communities, as you know, have spent a good deal
of time on these programs, perhaps more so than others.
I don't disagree about anything you said about the
preference for where these problems should be solved. The
drinking water systems in this country have been primarily
locally provided services. The Federal Government got involved
in this in the sixties in large part due to the concern of
interstate commerce, acknowledging that as the public travels
around this country, there are some basic protections that they
should feel confident about: that they can drink water in
another State and get high quality water.
The vast majority of our resources are given to the States,
which, in turn, are given to the local governments. I think
that is the appropriate pattern.
We have talked a lot today about these oversight dollars,
implementation dollars. I just do not want to hide the fact
that this is an important subject, but it also is a much, much
smaller part of our overall financing problem than the real
infrastructure problem, which you mentioned in your opening
I know there are a number of Members of Congress on a
bipartisan basis, and you can count the administration among
them, that think we need to have a debate about what is the
appropriate Federal level of involvement in infrastructure. I
am talking mostly about concrete and mortar--to provide the
increased investment that is necessary to meet these needs.
Truly, there are literally hundreds of billions of dollars
of needs that we have for both drinking water and wastewater.
We do need to have a debate about the Federal role.
Mr. Bilbray. I would ask us again to look at the fact of
our big successes. I just saw in California one of our great
successes is that the State and local community is the
implementing arm and agent of the Federal regulations, and the
Federal oversight is really just that.
I do not want to see us make the mistake that we look too
much at the concrete and steel. Let's face it, there is a whole
lot of pressure and interest groups who would love to see us
spend it on that. They can make money on that. But the local
oversight is not something that any real political pressure
group benefits from, but it is part of the essential formula.
I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Bilirakis. You had nothing to yield.
Mr. Green. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to join
both the chairman and our ranking member in asking for the
information on how all 50 States responded to the GAO survey.
Obviously, I have an interest not only in Texas but all over
the country, because of the jurisdiction of our committee.
Mr. Fox, I noticed when I reviewed your testimony that you
had a number of clean water issues to focus on. Can I ask why
the EPA, in light of their recent action, did not include MTBE
in your discussion on contaminants?
Mr. Fox. In fact, we are doing a lot in the drinking water
program on MTBE. I know this is a subject on which the
subcommittee has spent a good deal of time and attention. I am
not sure what I can add, but I will tell you a couple of
One, from a national drinking water standpoint, MTBE is
being found in drinking water. On one level, it is found at
very high levels typically associated with a spill of some
kind. However, it is ubiquitous. It is being found at lower
levels throughout the country.
We are now in the process of developing a new secondary
standard for MTBE which we hope to have out by the end of this
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, a secondary standard is
a standard based on taste and odor, as opposed to what we call
an enforceable public health standard. We should have more
information for this committee shortly. Currently, we are doing
our final interagency review on the secondary standard level.
We are also participating with the agency in an overall
look at MTBE. The administration has a series of legislative
principles that a Senate environmental committee has recently
acted on consistent with what the administration would like to
see. Needless to say, we would like to see the House do the
Mr. Green. You support a significant phase-down of the use
Mr. Fox. Absolutely, from a drinking water standpoint,
regardless of whether we can demonstrate a public health
threat. And I don't want to belittle that. The fact that MTBE
or gasoline can be smelled in the water basically makes it
unusable to drinking water systems. This is a very serious
Mr. Green. I have been trying to follow up on the efforts.
Is there any information that the EPA has that exposure to MTBE
may be a cancer-causing agent or carcinogen?
Mr. Fox. There is some information. My understanding is
that it is at higher levels, but that does not come under my
Mr. Green. Higher levels?
Mr. Fox. Higher concentration levels.
Mr. Green. I have never been able to hear that. We see that
in newspapers, yes, but not when we had somebody testifying. I
am not aware of any specific data. If you had that, would you
be willing to share that with the committee.
Tell me what information does EPA have on the presence of
MTBE in the drinking water supplies across our country. Does
EPA have any comprehensive, uniform data about the presence of
MTBE in drinking water supplies?
Mr. Fox. There have been a number of studies done by the
U.S. Geological Survey. Also, a number of States have conducted
monitoring. We have required MTBE monitoring as part of our
unregulated contaminants monitoring rule which will go into
effect next year. It will require that a number of systems
monitor for MTBE concentrations. The results of that monitoring
will be available on line in the national Containment
Occurrence Database. We can certainly get you that data.
Generally, the picture shows, as I said, that you find
relatively low concentrations of MTBE ubiquitous around the
country, talking about 2 parts per billion, and in some areas
you will have a hot spot generally associated with a leak of
[The following was received for the record:]
Information from the National Contaminant Occurrence
Database, which provides an overview of MTBE national
occurrence as reported by States and public water systems,
indicates most of the concentrations detected are at low
levels. Of 1,060 public water systems tested, only 54 systems
reported detections of MTBE. The concentrations ranged from 0.4
parts per billion (ppb) to 31.1 ppb. The average detected
concentration was around 3.1 ppb.
Regarding instances of high concentrations being detected,
the City of Santa Monica discovered that two of its drinking
water wellfields, Charnock and Arcadia, were contaminated with
MTBE at levels as high as 610 ppb and 86 ppb respectively in
1996. In response, the two wellfields, representing 50 percent
of the city's drinking water supply, were shut down and the
City began purchasing replacement water. After completing
investigations of the area, leaking underground storage tanks
were identified as contributing to the contamination of the
drinking water supply.
Mr. Green. A year ago we saw the EPA regulations requiring
all large public water systems have a representative sampling
of water. The tests started only recently and the comprehensive
data is still being compiled.
Mr. Fox. That is correct.
Mr. Green. When will the results from the mandated test be
Mr. Fox. I will get back to you on that one. They are just
starting to collect that. There are other studies available,
including those done by the USGS.
[The following was received for the record:]
EPA published the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule
(UCMR) in September 1999. This rule requires all large public
water systems and a representative sample of small public water
systems to monitor for certain unregulated contaminants. MTBE
was included in the list of contaminants for which systems must
monitor. Under the UCMR, public water systems will begin
monitoring in January 2001. The first results of monitoring
should be available online by the Spring of 2001.
Mr. Green. How old are those studies?
Mr. Fox. There has been a range all over the last 5 years,
including some in the States. California was the leader, of
Mr. Green. Let me make you aware of the results on testing
Our Natural Resource Commission collected more than 26,000
samples from nearly 6,500 entry points of drinking water
distribution systems. Of these, MTBE was detected in 13.
Furthermore, the mean result is 2.6 parts per billion.
Do you have any comments on that? Would that be similar to
what other States have had?
Mr. Fox. I would like to look at that data. The average
that you describe is certainly consistent with my understanding
when I testified. The fact that you had--I think you described
there were 25 percent of them in excess of 13 parts per
billion. That sounds a little different than my understanding
of the national picture. But again, let me look at the data.
[The following was received for the record:]
Occurrence data from a joint U.S. Geological Survey/EPA
study conducted in 12 States in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic
region show that MTBE was detected in 7.8% of public drinking
water supplies at a detection level of 1.0 ppb. This study
analyzed finished drinking water samples from 2,110 randomly
selected community water systems. Most of the MTBE detections
were below 5 ppb, with 2% of the CWSs reported above 5 ppb, and
only 0.8% at levels above 20 ppb, the lower limit of EPA's
Drinking Water Advisory.
In 1998, the State of Maine conducted a statistical survey
of its public water supplies and private wells providing
drinking water to the community. MTBE was detected in 150 or
15.8% of the 951 private wells sampled (minimum reporting level
of 0.1 parts per billion). 67 (6.6%) of the wells showed a
level of MTBE at 1 ppb or greater, and 10 wells (1.1%) had
levels exceeding 35 ppb, (Maine's drinking water standard). For
public water systems sampled, MTBE was detected in 125 (16%) of
793 public water supplies. 48 of these supplies (6.1%) showed a
level of MTBE at 1 ppb or greater. None of the public water
systems had detections above 35 ppb.
There are other State sampling results. For instance, in
California, 1,718 public water systems (serving 30 million of
the 34 million people in the state) were sampled and only 32
systems (1.9%) had MTBE detections. Of those systems with
detections, 20 systems (1.2%) were at levels above 5 ppb
(California's secondary standard based on taste and odor), and
12 systems (0.7%) at levels above 13 ppb (primary health based
standard). Since 1995, the State of Maryland has been sampling
community and nontransient noncommunity public water systems
for MTBE. Of the 1,060 public water systems tested, MTBE was
detected in 66 systems (6.2%) with only 10 systems (0.9%)
having levels above 20 ppb.
Mr. Green. MTBE was detected in 13 of the 6,500 entry
Mr. Chairman, will we have another round of questions?
Mr. Bilirakis. I don't contemplate that.
Mr. Green. Just to follow up, if I could----
Mr. Bilirakis. If you do it very quickly, without
Mr. Green. Since my colleague said he did not have any
problem with the drinking water in San Diego, I would like to
follow up with the testing in California. It was updated this
You may know that information shows that out of the 7,000
drinking water sources tested for MTBE, MTBE has occurred at
levels above the State MCL of 13 parts per billion in only
about .2 percent of the samples. That is two-tenths of 1
percent of the sources have MTBE above the California MCL.
Are you familiar with that information?
Mr. Fox. Again, I think that is consistent with the picture
I tried to describe for the committee.
Mr. Green. Last, if possible, I would like to have
information based on--because in earlier testimony on MTBE,
there was some concern about Lake Tahoe. From what I
understand, the MTBE has dropped 80 percent from recreational
vehicles, but there is a problem with ethanol now in Lake Tahoe
because of the substitution. I think that the committee should
have that information.
[The following was received for the record:]
Ethanol detections in the Lake Tahoe region are currently
being found in the monitoring wells for underground storage
tank facilities. While the occurrence of ethanol in these
monitoring wells could be a result of ethanol in gasoline,
there is also suspicion that the bentonite pellets used for
well seals, when put in water, leave behind a high
concentration of ethanol.
At this time the South Tahoe Public Utility district has
not reported any detection of ethanol in its drinking water
Mr. Fox. Part of the way MTBE works in the environment is
it volatilizes very quickly. You can have a very high
concentration in a place like Lake Tahoe over a 3-day weekend
when there is a lot of activity, and then go out and monitor
again, in the middle of the week and find lower levels because
it goes into the air.
Mr. Green. Did you say MTBE?
Mr. Fox. Yes.
Mr. Bilirakis. Mr. Bryant is recognized to inquire.
Mr. Bryant. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Fox, I will question a little bit off the focus of
today's hearing. Maybe you can help me or direct me to someone
in your agency.
EPA Region IV, which covers my State of Tennessee, recently
announced a reinterpretation of rules pertaining to high water
events which would prohibit the common practice by municipal
sewer facilities of bypassing the biological treatment point
near these events.
Cities in my district have expressed to me a concern over
this recent reinterpretation of existing EPA rules. As I
understand, this rule would prohibit this diversion because of
the tremendous cost applications. Obviously, the city officials
are concerned about this.
My question to you is, is this reinterpretation related
solely to the Clean Water Act, or does the Safe Drinking Water
Act contain provisions affecting the permitting of these
wastewater treatment facilities?
Mr. Fox. I have not heard anyone describe this as affected
by the Safe Drinking Water Act. This was only presented to me
as part of the Clean Water Act. It is an issue with which I am
very familiar. I have spoken, in fact, with some of the
municipal sewage districts around the country including some
from the State of Tennessee. This is a very complicated,
difficult, legal, technical and financial issue. I know the
agency has some obligation to provide some clear guidance on
this subject, and I let the sewage authorities know that. You
should be expecting to hear something from EPA in fairly short
order. By ``short order,'' I mean in the next few months.
Mr. Bryant. Thank you. Mr. Guerrero, one thing that your
report indicates to me that jumps out at me is that 75 percent
of the States believe they have inadequate staffing in the
drinking water programs, and over 90 percent of the States
believe that inadequate staffing will continue. Can you briefly
tell us a little bit more about the possible consequences of
these kind of numbers to public health?
Mr. Guerrero. Yes. What we found was that as a result,
States are, in some cases, doing what is minimally required, so
what gets triaged, what doesn't get done are things such as
technical assistance or conducting sanitary surveys, which are
intended to be more preventative in nature, identifying
problems before they occur. These have an impact on the smaller
systems that lack the technical resources and the wherewithal
to do some of these things themselves. That is basically
setting the stage for problems with a large number of small
systems. About 90 percent, give or take, of all the community
water systems are small, and, to some degree, are faced with
challenges of meeting competing demands, and to the extent that
the States cut back on some of these technical assistance and
proactive-type measures, it does set the stage for future
problems that could be related to the quality of the drinking
water provided especially by smaller systems.
Mr. Bryant. In connection with these funding numbers, and I
had another question about your report indicating that in
fiscal year 1999, State spending fell 20 percent short of the
estimated need for spending, according to the ASDWA. I am
wondering how real is this 20 percent funding shortfall and,
again, would you have a similar answer to my first question, as
to the consequences of only spending 80 percent for what is
needed for safe drinking water, the same ramifications?
Mr. Guerrero. Exactly. It has the same effects. In terms of
the estimate of what is needed, we believe in the aggregate,
the association's estimate is a reasonable estimate for the
country as a whole. It doesn't predict what is needed in a
particular State. But the association worked with about 25
percent of the States in developing its model to estimate
needs. We looked in depth at eight States, and when we talked
to the States, we asked them about the model. And in some cases
they said, well, part of this model overestimates what we need
and other parts of it underestimates needs. So it may not be
the best predictor for an individual State, but its assumptions
are reasonable and it is reasonable for predicting the total
national need. How confident are we in that 20 percent number?
I think reasonably comfortable.
Mr. Bryant. Very quickly, one last question. Your report
notes that these shortcomings on the part of the State
programs, it also notes that the State spending has been
increasing each year from $213 million in 1997 to $276 million
in 1999. Is the problem then or is the problem that the States
that are spending more, but like the old dog trying to chase
the car, they can't quite get it each year. In other words, are
the requirements on the State accelerating at a rate at which
it is harder and harder for the States to keep up? Do we see
that in your report?
Mr. Guerrero. I think primarily what we have here is more
of a structural problem than an acceleration of
responsibilities. It is clear that the Safe Drinking Water Act
sets forth a number of very demanding requirements for
individual water systems to meet and for States to meet. Having
said that, we did identify a number of impediments that exist
now that are predominantly financial in nature, that could be
To put this in perspective, the Federal contribution in
this area has grown about 60 percent over the last 3 years,
give or take. The State contribution has grown about 10
percent. So both the Federal Government and the States are
putting in more money for safe drinking water purposes. The
problem is most of the Federal increase comes from the State
revolving fund which the States are understandably reluctant to
use because, by using those dollars, it removes those dollars
for necessary infrastructure that they need. Also, they can't
revolve those dollars and multiply them by making those
dollars--once they are taken out of the SRF, available in the
future to address those pressing infrastructure needs. So there
is a today effect and there is a tomorrow effect by spending
infrastructure dollars on program oversight. So the States are
reluctant to use most of the Federal funds, because they are in
this one category that requires them to, in using them, to
compete with infrastructure needs. And then the States, as I
mentioned earlier, have some constraints they are operating
under themselves. They have hiring limitations. They have
resource funding limitations. They have salary and compensation
limitations. All of those combined make it difficult to bring
to bear the resources needed to address fully the program
Mr. Bilirakis. Well, the gentleman's time has long expired,
but I would like to go on because I think that is the gist of
what we are doing here today. We can talk about standards all
we want, but if they are not being enforced, then what good is
it? So what we need from you all is some help in terms of
whether or not we should be changing the legislation. I know we
have the States testifying in the next panel, and hopefully,
Mr. Fox, you might have somebody remain in the room from EPA
who will takes notes and listen to what the States will testify
to. Ms. Capps, do you have any questions?
Ms. Capps. I have a request from my colleague, Congressman
Green, who was unable to finish his remarks and then if he has
time left, I have a question to ask too. I yield to my
Mr. Green. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Fox, in continuing the question, I am sure you are
aware of the problems that States like California and my
colleague from Nevada have had with MTBE from recreational
vehicles in Lake Tahoe. Are you aware that the California
Secretary of Environment, Winston Hickok, recently announced
the levels of MTBE in Lake Tahoe dropped by 80 percent after
recreational vehicles such as jet skies were banned.
Mr. Fox. No, I am not specifically aware of his
Mr. Green. Tell me what criteria the EPA uses to recommend
that a chemical should be banned.
Mr. Fox. It is a fairly complicated process under the Toxic
Substances Control Act. It is a procedure that the agency is
currently going through, and we have not reached any
conclusions at this point.
Mr. Green. Is it based on impacts on human health?
Mr. Fox. That is among the factors considered, as well as
ecological impacts and, of course, economic impacts. A number
of factors that go into the evaluation.
Mr. Green. It is not solely based on the presence of MTBE
in drinking water? Would that be the sole reason for it?
Mr. Fox. It wouldn't be the sole reason. It very well could
be a driving reason simply in terms of the analysis and what
other factors were considered.
Mr. Green. What other chemicals or substances would meet
this criteria? How do the reported levels of MTBE in drinking
water supplies compare with the reported levels of pesticides/
herbicides in drinking water?
Mr. Fox. It is a little bit of apples and oranges, but I
certainly can get you that information. MTBE has very different
characteristics than, say, Atrazine, so trying to compare a
concentration of Atrazine to MTBE is a little difficult.
Mr. Green. But if it impacts human health is one of the
criteria. It seems like it is not really comparing apples to
oranges if it impacts.
Mr. Fox. Well, a number of contaminants in drinking water
can impact human health or, for whatever reason, render the
water unacceptable. As I said in the case of MTBE, simply
having an odor--making it smell like gasoline--renders that
water unacceptable, perhaps at levels that are actually lower
than we have documented scientific information that it is a
public health concern. But still to the public, it is unusable
Mr. Green. If you could provide that information for us.
Mr. Fox. Sure.
[The following was received for the record:]
The majority of human health-related research on MTBE has
focused on inhalation of the chemical. At high doses, MTBE has
caused non-cancer health effects as well as tumors in animal
studies. However, there have been no human or animal health
effects studies concerning the ingestion of MTBE in drinking
water. While EPA has determined there are insufficient data on
MTBE health effects to establish an enforceable health-based
drinking water standard, the Agency did state in the 1997
Drinking Water Advisory that keeping concentrations between 20
and 40 ppb or below would provide a large margin of exposure
(safety) from toxic effects. The Advisory also noted that
keeping MTBE concentrations in the range of 20 to 40 ppb and
below would likely avert unpleasant taste and odor effects. The
Agency does recognize some people may detect the chemical below
this range and, in some controlled taste and odor studies,
individuals have detected MTBE as low as 2 ppb.
Mr. Green. I think you would agree that if MTBE is removed
from our gasoline supply significantly more ethanol would
likely be used, is that correct?
Mr. Fox. I am the assistant administrator for water. That
is certainly my understanding of the conventional wisdom.
Mr. Green. I had mentioned earlier as my time expired on my
first 5 minutes, are you familiar with research showing that
ethanol can make gasoline contamination groundwater worse by
enhancing the solubility of the aromatic hydrocarbons in
Mr. Fox. I am aware that this is a very complex problem and
phenomenon in groundwater that probably does not lend itself to
quick and short answers.
Mr. Green. It can also slow the biodegradation of the
components of gasoline.
Mr. Fox. Sir, as I said, there are a lot of components and
characteristics of plume movement that are very tough to
Mr. Green. My concern is if EPA is moving forward with
banning MTBE, then the only substitute is ethanol, although my
colleague from California and I, are we going to be here next
year and the year after with the same problem with ethanol?
Mr. Fox. Part of the analysis that I am aware of is looking
at alternatives. So when the agency makes its determination
under TSCA, it will look at some of these alternatives to which
you are referring.
Mr. Green. My last question, do you know if there is any
ethanol contamination in Lake Tahoe's drinking water supply?
Mr. Fox. I am specifically not familiar with that, but I
can certainly look into it.
Mr. Green. Okay. Because the information I have is in April
of 2000 the South Tahoe Public Utility District reported that
ethanol had been found in the groundwaters serving as drinking
water supplies for Lake Tahoe residents and ethanol was
substituted for MTBE after MTBE was found last year. I
appreciate that information. I yield back my time.
Ms. Capps. Thank you. And I know my California colleague is
itching to get into this too. Since I do have a little time
left, and this is really pertaining to what I believe the
chairman was getting at in summary, I would like to hear it
stated one more time, Mr. Guerrero. The GAO report on page 22
indicates that States are generally in the best financial
condition in decades. We hear all these impediments between the
resources, Federal and some State resources, in actually
getting the corrections in the water supply itself. If it is
personnel or what is it, could you summarize for me and also
reiterate what is the role that we could play to free this up?
Mr. Guerrero. Right. As I indicated earlier, the States are
faced with a number of constraints. They sometimes have
staffing limitations. They sometimes have limitations on the
amount of funding provided, and they sometimes have problems
with providing the compensation necessary to attract the
technically skilled and knowledgeable individuals they need in
their programs. I think, you know, we do not make
recommendations in this particular report, but I would say that
it is really a twofold issue that need to be addressed. The
first part of it clearly is the funding impediments of the
States. The States themselves will need to come to grips with
those limitations and figure out how to provide the funding
that they need for these programs, especially to meet future
Some 90 percent of the States expressed concern to us about
their ability to do that. So they are going to be challenged to
do that. This, as you point out, is indeed a good environment
for them to be challenged in that regard. Because we are not
faced with the same situation that we were faced with back in
the late 1980's when requirements were not being met, yet then
the States were hard pressed financially.
Ms. Capps. Right.
Mr. Guerrero. The other part of the equation is the Federal
Government. That is how these grants are structured. The nature
of some of the moneys are in a pot called the supervisory
grant. That is matched on a 1-to-3 basis. The rest of the
money, a large charge chunk of the money, is in a State-
revolving fund pot which is intended for infrastructure.
Mr. Bilirakis. If the gentlelady doesn't mind, I appreciate
you getting us back on point quite frankly. I am not belittling
the standard and that sort of thing. This is what we hoped we
would concentrate on, is why the States are not really doing--
Ms. Capps. Exactly, and what incentives they need.
Mr. Bilirakis. But that is going to take probably more than
the amount of time that Mr. Guerrero might have or Mr. Fox
might have. I made the comment previously, it is critical we
hear from you, both of you, in terms of any recommendations you
may have. If there is something we can do, we should do up here
in order to get this done the way we want it to be done.
Because again, I say we can change all the standards we may
want, but if they are not enforced, if they are not being put
in place, what good are they? We can thump our chest a little
bit about changing the arsenic standard or whatever the case
may be, but if that is not being put in place back there where
the people are, what good is it? It is critical that we
concentrate on that. If the gentlelady doesn't mind, I will
yield to Mr. Deal who has been very, very patient.
Mr. Deal. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And in order to pursue
the continuity of that discussion rather than to add a caveat
to it, my colleague, Mr. Bilbray, has requested a bit of time
and I will yield to him.
Mr. Bilbray. Mr. Chairman, to get back off the subject, I
think it is important to point out that as the Tahoe issue was
talked about California has now taken the extraordinary effort
of outlawing two cycle motors totally out of the State. But
outlawing is not the answer. I think my colleague from Texas
has pointed out that we should stop mandating, to some degree,
strategies. And, in fact, Mr. Fox, California has been waiting
525 days for a waiver request, so that we are not forced to do
certain things. As the chairman points out----
Mr. Fox. I can definitely note that that does not come
under my office, Mr. Bilbray.
Mr. Bilbray. Thank you very much. I will exit with the
chairman and apologize for my rude interruption of going off
the subject again. I do thank my colleague from Texas for
raising the issue that some things are not so simple as some
people in this town would like to point out. I yield back to
Mr. Deal [presiding]. My question deals with the very
complex and multifaceted issue of safe drinking water. Being
from a rural district, my concerns and the issues that my
district faces are somewhat different, perhaps from some of the
other members of this panel. Mine is a district in which the
Chattahoochee River begins and flows into the largest reservoir
for the supply of water for the city of Atlanta, that being
Lake Lanier. It is a Corps of Engineers lake as you probably
are aware. My first question is a rather broad one, and that
is, what role does your agency play in the decisions that are
made with regard to treated water discharges into bodies like
Lake Lanier, what role do you play in working in a cooperative
fashion with the Corps of Engineers, for example?
Mr. Fox. That is a very good question. In general, EPA is
responsible for permitting discharges to reservoirs that come
from all sorts of point sources including the discharge from a
treatment plant. This authority is actually delegated to the
State of Georgia and EPA has oversight responsibilities. With
respect to the broader question of our involvement with the
Corps of Engineers, we do, in general, coordinate our work with
the Army Corps of Engineers to achieve our shared goals of
environmental protection, water supply provisions and flood
Mr. Bilbray. As you are aware, in any body of water like
that especially in one that developed at a time when there were
no extensive sewer treatment facilities, much of the
contamination of that drinking water we are told at least is
coming from leaking septic tanks near the shore, perhaps non-
point source pollution from upper river sediment and run off.
What financial assistance do these local entities and the State
itself have to draw upon in dealing with these, perhaps not as
direct an issue on water quality, but obviously, have an effect
on water quality? What additional resources perhaps that we
haven't even talked about here today would be available for
Mr. Fox. First, the loan funding we did talk about today
actually can be used for some source water protection efforts
like you described. Other program funds that I have
jurisdiction over but, frankly, might not fall within the
jurisdiction of this committee but with which you should be
aware to solve your problem, include section 319 non-point
source grants under the Clean Water Act. This is a program that
is funded in excess of $200 million. We give moneys out to the
States and there is a lot of flexibility that the States have
in deciding how they will spend it. We also have a clean water
SRF fund, like the drinking water, that is also a multi-billion
dollar Federal account. Again in that case, we give the
discretion to the State of Georgia, but these kind of projects
you described would be eligible for that as well. Those would
be our two principal funding mechanisms certainly, the
Department of Agriculture has some funds as well.
What I would tell you is that the problems that you
described are imminently solvable. Many communities around the
country have found ways to solve them. It requires that people
spend time and attention in looking at various sources of
different contamination and really trying to clean them up. New
York State, for example, is a real model in solving some of its
water quality problems very similar to the one you mentioned.
Mr. Deal. It is hard for me to sell New York State to
Georgia as much of a model for anything.
Mr. Fox. Sure, and you all could use some rain.
Mr. Deal. Yes, we are praying for that. Thank you very
much. I believe that concludes my time.
I want to thank the panel members for their attendance
today. We appreciate your participation in this discussion.
Thank you. If you could follow up with the requests that have
been made by the members of this committee, we would appreciate
that as well. Thank you.
We will now call the second panel. If they would come to
the tables please.
Thank you, gentlemen. I will go ahead and introduce the
second panel. First of all, Mr. Jay L. Rutherford, who is the
director of Water Supply Division of the Vermont Department of
Environmental Conservation. Second, Mr. Howard Neukrug, who is
the director of the Office of Watersheds of the Philadelphia
Water Department; Mr. David L. Tippin, the director of the
Tampa Water Department. Mr. Eric B. Olson, the senior attorney
of Natural Resource Defense Council here in Washington, DC. Mr.
Terry Gloriod, the president of the Illinois American Water
Company of Belleville, Illinois.
Gentlemen, we are pleased to have you here today. We will
begin with the opening statement by Mr. Rutherford.
STATEMENTS OF JAY L. RUTHERFORD, DIRECTOR, WATER SUPPLY
DIVISION, VERMONT DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION;
HOWARD NEUKRUG, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF WATERSHEDS, PHILADELPHIA
WATER DEPARTMENT, ON BEHALF OF AMERICAN WATER WORKS
ASSOCIATION, ACCOMPANIED BY ALAN ROBERSON, DIRECTOR OF
REGULATORY AFFAIRS, AMERICAN WATER WORKS ASSOCIATION; DAVID L.
TIPPIN, DIRECTOR, TAMPA WATER DEPARTMENT; ERIC D. OLSON, SENIOR
ATTORNEY, NATURAL RESOURCE DEFENSE COUNCIL; AND TERRY L.
GLORIOD, PRESIDENT, ILLINOIS AMERICAN WATER COMPANY
Mr. Rutherford. Mr. Chairman and committee members, good
In addition to being a board member of the Association of
State Drinking Water Administrators, I am the director of
Vermont's drinking water and groundwater protection programs
and I thank you for inviting me to testify today on behalf of
the association. I would like to highlight two aspects of my
written testimony. First is the challenges that the States are
facing with small systems, and increasingly complex
regulations, and the second is problems with funding.
Our first concern is that EPA's new regulatory proposals
have become more complex and do not seem to recognize the
phenomenal workload and time required to help small public
water systems comply with them. To illustrate this, I ask you
to consider the typical public water system. It is not the
utility serving 50,000 or 100,000 people. It does not have
professional drinking water staffs or around-the-clock
coverage. It is far more likely to be a small subdivision or a
school or a restaurant. The fact is that there are 169,000
public water systems in the country, and of those, only 9,000
serve more than 3,300 people. This leaves a whopping 160,000
systems that must be considered small or very small.
In my State, Vermont, over 300 of our smallest community
water systems serve approximately the same population as our
single largest one. For the same number of people served, the
difference between working with one utility with professional
staffs versus 300 of the small variety is huge and illustrates
the basic problem from the State's perspective. It is highly
resource and time intensive to work with small systems. In my
written testimony, there is a list of some 18 requirements
resulting from the 1996 amendments.
These new requirements are much more complex than the
``detect and treat'' model that we are used to. Some of them
require that the State become directly involved in process
control decisions or conduct detailed inspections and
assessments. It also imposes substantially increased reporting
burdens on the States. It is against this backdrop that we ask
you to consider the challenging tasks that the States are
facing in carrying out our oversight duties regardless of the
The result of these factors is that the expectations of
this body and the public will not be met in full by many State
drinking water programs. We have no choice but to prioritize
our efforts. While we would all like to provide the expected
level of oversight, we must limit our work to those issues of
most immediate public health benefit. This disparity between
expectations and realities needs to be addressed soon.
My second topic is on funding. The Federal program grant to
States known as the PWSS Grant has remained static over the
past few years, even though new Federal mandates are arriving
at a breathtaking pace. Congress authorized the use of a
portion of the each State's SRF capitalization grant for non-
infrastructure initiatives, including State program support.
This welcomed flexibility was a wise decision and has allowed
States to develop programs that are best suited to their
On the other hand, the use of set-asides to fund ongoing
programs is problematic, especially in the absence of any PWSS
increases. There were a number of pitfalls that limit its use,
as some were mentioned earlier. The first one that I would like
to mention is that the capitalization grants were only
authorized through 2003, while the resources needs go well
beyond. It has been challenging to get approval for new
positions or to get people to accept them when the funding
source appears to be temporary.
The second problem stems from the basic purpose of the
capitalization grants which is infrastructure improvement loans
for water systems. It is a difficult sell to explain to water
system owners that we will be taking a significant piece of the
capitalization grant to pay for State government instead. Also,
even ignoring these issues temporarily, it is clear that there
are program shortfalls of thousands of FTEs in the country and
hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years.
Without corrections to these shortfalls, in spite of the
dedication and hard work of thousands of State employees, we
will not be able to keep up with the expected schedules for all
Mr. Chairman, I would like you to know that the States are
fully committed to this program and would like to work with
you, EPA, water systems and other stakeholder groups, to have
our national drinking water program be the success that the
1996 amendments envisioned them to be.
[The prepared statement of Jay L. Rutherford follows:]
Prepared Statement of Jay L. Rutherford, P.E., Director, Water Supply
Division, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation
The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) is
pleased to provide written testimony on state resource needs,
implementation of the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), and
infrastructure funding to the House Commerce Committee Subcommittee on
Health and Environment. ASDWA represents the state drinking water
administrators in the 50 states and six territories who have
responsibility for implementing the many provisions of the SDWA and
ensuring the provision of safe drinking water. State drinking water
programs are committed to providing safe drinking water and improved
public health protection to the citizens of this nation. ASDWA's
testimony will focus on state resource needs and implementation
concerns as well as the documented and growing need for adequate
funding for water system infrastructure.
The SDWA was first authorized in 1974. Since that time, it was
revised in 1986, and most recently in 1996. Forty-nine of the 50 states
currently have ``primacy'' or enforcement authority for the Federal
SDWA. To achieve and maintain primacy, states must adopt rules that are
as stringent as the Federal rules and have the ability to enforce these
regulations. Although some states have requirements that are more
stringent; for the most part, state drinking water programs are
implementing and enforcing a Federal mandate.
Collectively, state programs provide oversight, implementation
assistance, and enforcement for approximately 169,000 public water
systems nationwide. These systems range from large metropolitan
municipalities to mobile home parks and schools. The vast majority
(over 95 percent) of the systems are small, serving less than 3,300
people. Many of these systems require extensive technical assistance,
training, and oversight.
Since 1974, states have worked diligently with communities to
assure their drinking water is safe. In doing so, states have adopted
and been implementing standards for 20 inorganic chemicals including
lead and nitrate; 56 organic chemicals including pesticides,
herbicides, and volatile chemicals; total trihalomethanes; and total
and fecal coliform; as well as implementing treatment requirements for
surface water systems for turbidity, Giardia, and viruses. In addition,
states have developed technical assistance programs, conducted sanitary
surveys, and addressed operator certification, training, enforcement,
emergency response, and review of water utilities plans and
The 1996 reauthorization of the SDWA contained numerous new
requirements to enhance the provision of safe drinking water in this
country. These new requirements include: providing consumer confidence
reports; revisions to the lead/copper rule; a Stage 1 D/DBP rule; an
interim enhanced surface water treatment rule; source water assessments
and delineations for all public water systems; unregulated contaminant
monitoring requirements; a revised public notification rule; a long-
term enhanced surface water treatment rule; a filter backwash rule; a
radon rule; a rule to protect ground water; an arsenic rule; a
radionuclides rule; a Stage 2 disinfection by-products rule; a long-
term 2 enhanced surface water treatment rule; water system capacity
development programs; a drinking water SRF program; and operator
certification program revisions. In addition, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) is required to obtain data to make
determinations on whether to regulate an additional five more
contaminants every six years. Of critical importance is that the new
law did not lessen or negate any of the previous requirements but
rather added a significant number of major new initiatives and
rulemakings (see chart on top of page 9).
In order to ensure the effective implementation of all of these new
mandates--most of which will affect state programs between now and 2005
(see chart on bottom of page 9), states will need to develop new
expertise, greatly expand their current staff, and increase financial
resources commensurate with these intensive new activities. This is
particularly challenging since the new law greatly expanded the nature
of drinking water protection from primarily measuring contaminants at
the tap to evaluating and protecting source water, enhancing water
system capacity, and significantly increasing the amount of information
provided to the public.
STATE FUNDING NEEDS
Federal Funding Sources
The SDWA authorizes EPA to fund up to 75 percent of the costs to
states to implement the drinking water program. Historically, however,
states have contributed 65 percent of the funding while EPA has only
contributed 35 percent. While the actual contributions for individual
states vary, with some substantially over matching the Federal
contribution, the bottom line is that adequate Federal funding for this
Federal law has not historically been provided.
The current Federal PWSS grant provides $87.5 million for states to
implement their programs (the remainder of the $93 million currently
appropriated by Congress is directed to Indian Tribes). This level has
not increased for states over the last five years (since FY-97), even
though many of the new initiatives under the 1996 Amendments became
effective almost immediately.
The 1996 Amendments also allowed states to take set-asides from the
drinking water SRF for program implementation. EPA, however, has never
requested the full $1 billion per year authorization, and, in fact, is
using the SRF as a convenient funding mechanism for new programs such
as operator certification training which further reduces the corpus of
the funds available for state use. In addition, many states have
encountered significant barriers to fully accessing these funds
the inability to obtain the needed one-to-one state match with
new state revenue
the inability to shift resources directed to water system
infrastructure improvements to state program implementation
the unstable nature of the annual SRF funding allocation which
is based on water system needs and is affected by the states
intended use plan for projects
the threat of up to 40 percent withholding for failure to
implement certain program requirements such as capacity
development and operator certification
the unwillingness of state legislatures to approve new hires
using ``temporary'' funding (the drinking water SRF is only
authorized until 2003)
States view the PWSS grant program as a stable, dependable funding
base that allows states to hire and maintain full time staff over the
long term. States feel strongly that the preferred funding vehicle is
the PWSS grant program and that either resources from the SRF should be
shifted to this fund, or additional new resources should be directed to
this fund. As an immediate first step, EPA should begin annually
requesting the full $100 million authorized by the SDWA for PWSS
State Resource Needs Analyses
ASDWA and EPA have jointly conducted state program resource needs
analyses since 1988. Over the last twelve years, three analyses have
been conducted, one in 1988, one in 1993, and the most recent analysis
in 1999. The analyses looked at current needs as well as long-term
needs, and in all cases, the analyses indicated a shortfall in funding
to states. The most recent analysis, completed in 1999 (but not yet
published), was based on a national model that looked at funding needs
for small, medium, and large states between 1999 and 2005. Taking into
account state funding contributions, as well as the Federal PWSS grant
allocations, and set-asides from the drinking water SRF, the recent
survey found the following (see chart on page 10):
a state staffing shortfall of 1,627 FTEs in 1999 growing to
2,670 FTEs in 2005
a state funding shortfall of $83 million in 1999 growing to
$207 million in 2005
Collectively, the states, EPA, and Congress need to evaluate and
agree on state resource needs and find the necessary funds to ensure
the full implementation success of the new SDWA. Without adequate staff
and financial resources, states will continue to be forced to
prioritize workload efforts, focus on their highest priorities, and
potentially extend the timing for full program implementation. The
states do not believe these actions meet the expectations of Congress
or the public, nor are they consistent with the states' desire to fully
implement the law and provide maximum public health protection to all
Recommendations: 1) ASDWA and EPA should complete and publish the
1999 State Resource Needs Report; 2) EPA Headquarters, Regions, and
states should work together to identify individual state resource gaps
and develop a strategy for meeting staffing as well as financial needs;
3) as an immediate first step, EPA should request the full $100 million
for PWSS grants; 4) as another immediate action, EPA should request the
full $1 billion authorized for the SRF, including the amounts remaining
from previous authorizations that were never requested; 5) Congress
should consider moving the 10 percent set-aside in the drinking water
SRF for state program implementation to the PWSS grants and ensure that
the full funding is made available to the states on a long term basis;
6) Congress should direct EPA to conduct a thorough analysis of state
implementation costs for each new rule or program activity and require
that the cumulative cost burden be presented against the funds
available to states to implement all the requirements; and 7) should
EPA find that the increased costs are individually or cumulatively more
than the state resources available, additional funding should be sought
from Congress to ensure full implementation. States stand fully
prepared to work with EPA and Congress to explore these and other
alternatives to address these critical funding needs.
The states were willing players and partners in the discussions
leading up to SDWA reauthorization in 1996 with the specific
understanding that a significant new mandate such as this law, which
encompasses sweeping new reforms and activities outside of the
traditional drinking water program, must be accompanied by significant
new resources and staff. While essential, resources alone are simply
not enough. In addition, states need a reasonable regulatory schedule
and the flexibility to allow states to shift staff and resources to new
programs in a calculated and manageable fashion. States and public
water systems also need regulations that are simple, understandable,
and implementable, and that focus on public health outcomes rather than
micro-management of process minutia.
To date, states have attained a significant amount of success in
implementing the provisions of the SDWA. For example, states have made
progress in working with utilities using surface water supplies to
install new treatment facilities to assure a much higher level of
public health protection. Exposures to lead from drinking water have
been significantly reduced; the data and information about water system
quality and compliance is more readily available to the public through
Consumer Confidence Reports, state compliance reports, the Envirofacts
database, and state web sites; the training and certification of water
plant operators is being significantly improved; and the drinking water
SRF has been established in all states and loans are now being made to
water systems to improve both their infrastructure and their ability to
provide safe water to their consumers. States are also beginning a very
comprehensive and resource intensive effort to delineate and assess the
quality of all source water being used for drinking water to ensure
that local communities have the tools and information they need to
protect their drinking water sources.
Despite these many successes, new and different challenges have
emerged. These include issues related to:
resource limitations--funding and staffing
rule development and implementation complexities
increasing small system needs
These issues are discussed below.
Resources--Funding and Staffing
As indicated in the previous section, many states are facing a
serious crises due to inadequate funding. EPA must recognize that state
as well as Federal resources are finite and in many cases are already
inadequate. States are also struggling to find and hire new staff.
States are faced with a decreasing pool of qualified candidates as
schools begin turning out more computer specialists than engineers.
Hiring freezes and in many cases, non-competitive salary structures
make many states unable to compete for qualified candidates
particularly in today's tight labor market. States often must resort to
hiring entry level staff without the experience and management skills
to develop and manage complex technological programs and, once trained,
many employees leave the state for the private sector. These realities
and dynamics must be understood by EPA.
In this current environment, the overwhelming magnitude and pace of
rule promulgation and adoption is a major concern for the states. EPA
intends to finalize no less than eight major rule packages in 2000 and
2001. The states are very concerned about the resources needed to
ensure simultaneous compliance with all of these rules both for water
systems and state programs.
Rule Development and Implementation Complexities
To maximize state efforts, given funding and staff limitations, EPA
must work diligently to ensure that new regulations and programs are
simple, understandable, and implementable. Unfortunately, many of the
regulations that have been proposed recently do not fall under any of
these headings. Certainly a large part of it has to do with the very
complex nature of some of the contaminants being regulated--
particularly for treatment technique regulations--but a large part of
it is also caused by the Agency's inability to coordinate and provide
an overarching implementation strategy that views all regulations
holistically. A classic example is the manner in which the Agency is
handling sanitary survey requirements for public water systems. When
all is said and done, requirements for sanitary surveys will likely
appear in numerous regulations with each regulation requiring something
different or more than the last rule. Unfortunately, the individual
rules do not cover all public water systems. The states, therefore,
find themselves in the quandary of having to deal with varying
requirements for different water systems for the same activity. This is
an example of the barriers that are being artificially imposed on
states and water systems.
Another example is the lack of communication between the program
office and the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA).
OECA maintains an interest in the enforceability and violations
reporting but does not appear to participate in a regular manner during
rule development. The result is that proposals are often published that
do not include key state implementation activities such as data
reporting and violation determinations. This provides little to no
opportunity for states and affected parties to comment as part of a
complete rule package. Many of these elements have the means to make
implementation relatively straightforward or immensely complex.
For years, states have also been imploring EPA to include data
management and implementation staff as active participants in the rule
development process. This participation is critical to ensure that the
data tracking and reporting elements developed for the rule are in fact
able to be computerized and evaluate compliance in a simple and
straightforward manner. Too often, states feel that the reporting and
tracking systems are more focused on micro-managing the process and
fail to adequately measure the intended outcome of the regulation which
is whether public health has been protected and improved. ASDWA
believes that the reporting for most rules should encompass only a few
critical reporting elements that answer the question about whether
water quality has improved.
EPA also needs to maintain a balance among all of the requirements
of the various rules to ensure that state time and resources are being
spent on the most important public health regulations and in a manner
that is commensurate with the potential public health benefits. This is
often not the case because individual EPA staff work on a limited
number of rules and are not aware of the requirements of other rules
and how their efforts can be best incorporated into a comprehensive
Finally, states are very concerned about a real tension that exists
between their need for time to adopt state rules and the interpretation
of the SDWA that requires water systems to be in compliance within
three years of rule promulgation. Clearly the law allows states the two
years for rule adoption. This time is necessary for states to follow
their own administrative procedures acts, obtain legislative authority
if needed, and work with the public and stakeholders to develop the
state rule, taking into account state flexibilities in decision making
and the ability to be more stringent. States also need time to share
drafts of rules and work through rule development issues with EPA
Regions and Headquarters. During this period, states are also training
staff and operators, certifying laboratories, modifying their
databases, and generally developing the internal infrastructure to
implement and enforce the rule. Once state regulations are final, they
typically must then notify the systems of their new requirements and
when monitoring should begin. If states take the full two years, then
it leaves only one year for systems to monitor, identify a problem,
hire a consulting engineer, submit plans to the state for approval, and
install new treatment in order to meet the compliance deadline. As can
be seen, this scenario is fundamentally flawed and presents yet another
barrier to full and effective implementation.
Inserting EPA Regions into the implementation process prior to
state rule adoption is not the answer, however. Regions are not on-site
and do not have the resources, experience, and mechanisms in place to
do much more than send letters and issue orders which greatly
complicates the process and leaves the program in great disarray at the
point when states must assume responsibility. This intrusion has the
potential to negatively impact state fee structures and potentially
abrogates states flexibilities and rights to develop rules that meets
the needs of their states. This would be a disservice to the states,
the utilities, and the public across this country and brings into
question the concept of primacy and state authority.
Increasing Small System Needs
States are very concerned about the increasing regulatory and
implementation impacts that future rules will have on small systems.
Prior to the 1996 Amendments, the primary concern of the states was to
get small systems to monitor for the regulated contaminants. For the
most part, many of the contaminants were not detected and did not
require the installation of treatment. This, however, will change
dramatically in the future as EPA modifies regulations on arsenic and
radionuclides, and develops regulations on radon, disinfection by-
products, and the ground water rule. It will be critical that small
systems understand the requirements, have cost-effective treatment
options available, and willingly work with the states to achieve
compliance. Since 95 percent of the systems that the states regulate
serve less than 3,300 persons, the workload implications may be
staggering if states must spend a significant amount of time educating,
training, and working with small systems to achieve compliance. This is
another reason why EPA's rules must be simple, understandable, and
Recommendations: 1) As stated above, EPA and the states need to
work together to identify needed state resources and staff and develop
a strategy to close identified gaps; 2) EPA needs to be cognizant of
the numerous rule packages being developed simultaneously and develop
tools and guidance to maximize the integration of the various rule
packages for states as well as water systems; 3) EPA must continue to
work toward simplifying and streamlining new regulations and reporting
requirements; 4) Congress should ensure that EPA implementation, rule
development, data management, and enforcement staff all work together
from the beginning to the end of the rule development process to ensure
complete, comprehensive, and implementable rule proposals; 5) EPA and
the states need to work together to develop a small number of outcome,
rather than process, measures for new regulations; and 6) Congress
should re-evaluate the issue of water system compliance timeframes in
light of the timing incongruity of state rule adoption and activities
needed to be completed by water systems and their communities to ensure
Significant investment in water system infrastructure is critical
to ensure the safety of drinking water today and into the future. A
recent report, prepared by the Water Infrastructure Network, indicates
that a current gap of $11 billion a year exists between current
infrastructure investments and the investments that will be needed
annually over the next 20 years to replace aging and failing pipes and
water treatment plants. Between water and wastewater needs, the
estimate is almost $1 trillion in need over the next 20 years for water
treatment facilities, water distribution systems, and wastewater
The new mandates under the SDWA of 1996 will necessitate increasing
infrastructure investment in the future. New rules dealing with
disinfection by-products, radon, radionuclides, arsenic, ground water
protection, and filter backwash are expected to create new treatment
facility demands--particularly for small systems. The needs will
continue to escalate as more regulations are promulgated that address
new contaminants in drinking water, and as current standards are
continually driven lower to match new analytical detection methods. In
addition, new treatment technologies such as membranes, ozone, and
ultra violet irradiation will become more common place in water
treatment. A number of these technologies are currently quite costly to
purchase, operate, and maintain.
Another significant issue of concern is aging and failing
distribution systems. Funding must be made available to ensure that
pipes are maintained and replaced as needed to ensure that the quality
of water produced at the treatment plant is not significantly degraded
between the plant and the consumer's tap.
Recommendations: 1) Congressional House members should consider
joining the House Water Infrastructure Caucus; 2) Congress should
evaluate the existing and projected infrastructure needs and work with
Governors, states, mayors, and water systems as well as the public to
evaluate funding mechanisms available to close the gap.
While states intend to do all they can to meet their existing and
new commitments, full implementation of the SDWA is not achievable with
the resources currently being made available and the obstacles states
face. The implementation road blocks and barriers being placed before
and upon states are beginning to take their toll. States, EPA, and
Congress need to work together to ensure that collectively states have
the resources, staff, and necessary tools to ensure full implementation
of the SDWA. States cannot do it alone.
While quietly prioritizing and addressing the most critical
implementation activities at the state and local level is the current
reality, it is doubtful that this approach ultimately meets the
expectations of the public and Congress. States do not want to see the
gains that have been made over the last 25 years eroded due to lack of
resources and implementation tools. The fundamental principles of the
SDWA Amendments of 1996 are sound and, if correctly administered, have
the potential to provide meaningful new public health protections. The
states want the chance to succeed and they want the opportunity to help
craft, as EPA's partners, the future direction of programs that will
ensure the provision of safe drinking water in this country.
INSERT OFFSET FOLIO 1 HERE
Mr. Deal. Thank you, Mr. Rutherford.
STATEMENT OF HOWARD NEUKRUG
Mr. Neukrug. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the
committee. My name is Howard Neukrug, and I am the director of
the Office of Watersheds for the Philadelphia Water Department
in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Water Department is a
municipal water, wastewater and stormwater utility serving
around 2 million people in the Philadelphia region. I am here
serving as the vice chair of the American Waterworks
Association Water Utility Council. I am here today on their
behalf. AWWA appreciates this opportunity to present its views
on the implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act amendments
of 1996. You have our written statements.
I would like to begin my oral remarks with some good news.
The good news is we are now in an era where we have the best
quality water anywhere in the world, and it is better than any
time in history.
We have a respected, credible drinking water profession and
industry. We are customer driven. We are becoming more and more
the stewards of the environment, particularly with the ground
breaking efforts of the source water protection provisions of
the 1996 act. We are partners in public health protection,
consumer advocacy. We are professionals and we are dedicated to
providing the highest quality of drinking water possible. We
are providers of good quality service and communications and
information and, with the consumer confidence report, even more
so today than ever before, and we are providers of fresh
Our problem is in the definition of what is healthy water
and defining healthy water. From the 1996 Safe Drinking Water
Act Amendments healthy water is defined by regulation:
Occurrence in health effects data, acceptable risk and risk
tradeoffs, cost-benefit analysis.
Unfortunately, the promises of the 1996 amendments have not
been fully realized. We hear more and more that sound science
is in the eye of the beholder. We have consensus-driven
definitions for healthy water, we see regulatory compromises.
We need good science, good science that will be believed by the
public. Final decisions on healthy water, there is no consensus
and final decisions are deferred. Real or perceived dangers
still lurk out there. There is low public perception of the
quality of the drinking water and the expectations of the
public. We have in place a staggered step-down series of
regulations which has led to an unstable regulatory
environment, no long-term vision and a reactive mode by the
drinking water industry.
We want to emphasize that EPA has made a very good faith
effort in many areas to implement the Safe Drinking Water Act
Amendments of 1996. And the EPA Office of Groundwater and
Drinking Water is to commended for its exemplary outreach and
involvement of stake holders in the regulatory process.
However, AWWA does have a major concern that EPA is not
conducting the essential research and developing new data to
support the drinking water regulations as expected in the 1996
amendments. Indeed, the use of best available, peer-reviewed,
good science that is the foundation for the new drinking water
standard setting process requires extensive drinking water
research, particularly health effects research. Unfortunately,
there has been a cycle in which critical drinking water
research lags behind the regulatory process. We must break that
cycle, and this can only be done through improved funding and
planning. Long-range planning is needed to break the cycle of
drinking water research lagging behind the regulatory needs.
Since EPA has put a strong emphasis on meeting statutory
deadlines, the results may be the promulgation of regulations
without the good science that was envisioned in the 1996 act.
Before concluding, I will point out two other issues that
are also in the written comments. The first one is the new
Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. We are concerned that it
will not adequately address the needs identified to comply with
the safe drinking water regulations and upgrade drinking water
infrastructure that is needed to ensure the high quality, safe
drinking water to be provided to the American public in the
Our written statement also addresses AWWA's concern about
MTBE in contaminated drinking water, an issue that cuts across
several statutes in EPA programs. The AWWA recommends that
Congress take swift action on legislation necessary to prevent
further contamination of water supply by MTBE or other fuel
additives and provide assistance to public water systems that
have MTBE-contaminated water supplies.
Thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of Howard Neukrug follows:]
Prepared Statement of Howard Neukrug, Director, Office of Watersheds,
Philadelphia Water Department, on Behalf of the American Water Works
Good morning Mr. Chairman. I am Howard Neukrug, Director of the
Office of Watersheds for the Philadelphia Water Department in
Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Water Department is a municipal water,
wastewater and stormwater utility serving over two million people in
the Philadelphia metropolitan area. I serve as the Vice Chair of the
American Water Works Association (AWWA) Water Utility Council and am
here today on behalf of AWWA. AWWA appreciates the opportunity to
present its view on the implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act
Amendments of 1996.
Founded in 1881, AWWA is the world's largest and oldest scientific
and educational association representing drinking water supply
professionals. The association's 56,000-plus members are comprised of
administrators, utility operators, professional engineers, contractors,
manufacturers, scientists, professors and health professionals. The
association's membership includes over 4,2000 utilities that provide
over 80 percent of the nation's drinking water. AWWA and its members
are dedicated to providing safe, reliable drinking water to the
AWWA utility members are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water
Act (SDWA) and other statutes. AWWA believes few environmental
activities are more important to the health of this country than
assuring the protection of water supply sources, and the treatment,
distribution and consumption of a safe and healthful adequate supply of
drinking water. AWWA strongly believes that the successful
implementation of the reforms of the SDWA Amendments of 1996 is
essential to effective regulations that protect public health.
EPA DRINKING WATER PROGRAM
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water program
took on greatly increased responsibilities in the 1996 SDWA amendments.
These responsibilities included developing a new regulatory process
requiring additional science and risk analysis for regulations,
creating a contaminant occurrence data base and methodology to select
contaminants for regulation, promulgating regulations for arsenic,
radon and microbial and disinfectant/disinfection by-products (M/DBP),
identifying new treatment technologies for small systems, administering
the newly created drinking water state revolving fund, and developing
regulations and guidelines for consumer confidence reports, operator
certification programs, source water assessment and monitoring relief.
In satisfying these requirements, EPA has involved the public in
the regulatory process to an extent not equaled by any other federal
agency and stands as a model for federal rule making. EPA has involved
private citizens, scientists, drinking water professionals, medical
professionals, public health officials, economists, and environmental
and consumer advocacy representatives, as well as other experts, to
provide recommendations on how to carry out these new regulatory
responsibilities. The EPA Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water is
to be commended for taking this exemplary approach for public
involvement that should result in better regulations that protect
However, AWWA does have a major concern that EPA is not conducting
essential research and developing new data nor doing adequate cost-
benefit analysis to support new drinking water standards as expected in
the 1996 SDWA Amendments. There is also a long-term concern that the
authorizations for the new drinking water state revolving fund will not
be adequate to address the needs identified to comply with SDWA
regulations and upgrade drinking water infrastructure to ensure that
high quality safe drinking water is provided to the American people. In
this statement, AWWA will focus on the research and infrastructure
funding needs as well as highlight AWWA's concerns with the arsenic,
radon, radionuclides and M/DBP rulemaking that illustrate some
deficiencies in EPA rulemaking. Although it is not an SDWA
implementation issue, this statement also will address AWWA's concern
about MTBE contamination of drinking water--an issue that cuts across
several statutes and EPA programs.
DRINKING WATER RESEARCH
The use of best-available, peer-reviewed good science as the
foundation of the new drinking water standard-setting process under the
SDWA amendments of 1996 will require extensive drinking water
research--particularly health effects research. Unfortunately, there
has been a cycle in which critical drinking water research lags behind
the regulatory process. We must break that cycle. This can be done
through improved funding and planning.
The nation needs an integrated, comprehensive drinking water
research program. EPA must develop research schedules that meet
regulatory needs along with a research tracking system so that the
researchers and their EPA project officers can be held accountable and
Congress must appropriate the funds required to carry out timely
research. Only with timely appropriations and Congressional oversight
can EPA, the drinking water community and consumers work together to
ensure that sound science yields the most appropriate regulations and
practices possible for the provision of safe drinking water for all the
people in America.
Drinking Water Research Funding
Funding for drinking water research is a critical issue. The 1996
SDWA Amendments require EPA to develop comprehensive research plans for
Microbial/Disinfection By-Products (M/DBP) and arsenic as well as other
contaminants. An estimated total of over $100 million is needed for the
combined arsenic and M/DBP regulatory research plans alone and this
figure does not include other needed drinking water research on radon,
a whole array of other radionuclides, groundwater contamination,
children's health issues, endocrine disruptors, and other new
contaminants on EPA's Contaminant Candidates List (CCL) that will
require additional occurrence, treatment, and health effects research.
In the past year, AWWA and other stakeholders worked closely with
EPA to resolve any future research resource gaps beginning with the FY
2001 budget process. As a result of this cooperative approach to
determining drinking water research needs, AWWA believes that the
$48,872,500 requested in the President's Budget for FY 2001 is the
absolute minimum necessary for FY 2001, (and may not be enough) to
assure that the essential research will be conducted on which to base
drinking water regulations as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act
Over the past several years, public water suppliers have worked
together with EPA and the Congress to secure increased research funding
for the nation's drinking water program. We believe that, through this
cooperative effort, essential increases in research dollars have been
obtained for drinking water over the past few years after several years
of steady decline.
In August 2001, EPA will select at least five contaminants from the
Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) and determine whether or not to
regulate them. This process will be repeated every five years. To
determine whether to regulate a contaminant and establish a maximum
contaminate level (MCL) or another regulatory approach, EPA will need
good health effects research. Recognizing the serious burden this
regulatory mandate presents, the drinking water community has offered
its time, resources and expertise to work with EPA to develop a
research plan for the contaminants on the CCL.
Drinking Water Research Planning
Developing a comprehensive drinking water research plan is
necessary. EPA finalized the first Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) in
February, 1998, which contained 61 contaminants that could be
considered for future regulations. Of these 61 contaminants, only 12
currently have adequate information to move forward in the standard-
setting process. The balance of the contaminants (including such
important contaminants as MTBE, triazines, and acetochlor) need
additional health effects, treatment, analytical methods, and
occurrence research. A comprehensive research plan for this large
number of contaminants needs to be completed, peer-reviewed, adequately
resourced, and then implemented. EPA has been working over the past
couple of years to develop such a comprehensive plan. The total funding
need for a comprehensive research plan is unknown at this time, but the
amount is expected to be substantial.
AWWA has been encouraging EPA for the past several years, without
much success, to develop a research plan to address the regulatory
needs resulting from the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL). EPA's Draft
Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) Research Plan attempts to fill that
need, but misses the mark. The Drinking Water Committee (DWC) of the
Science Advisory Board (SAB) recently completed a review of EPA's Draft
Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) Research Plan. The DWC concluded that:
The plan is not in the form of a plan, rather, it appears to
be structured as more of a research strategy.
The decision processes used in phases I and II are not
The process of prioritization is the most important issue. The
CCL Research Plan must develop practical priorities to
determine the allocation of scarce resources that will maximize
the protection of public health.
The vast majority of EPA's ongoing drinking water research is
related to the M/DBP Cluster and arsenic. EPA has established
innovative research partnerships with the AWWA Research Foundation
(AWWARF) and the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) that
has partially filled the research gap on these two issues. However,
very little research is ongoing on other priority regulations such as
radon, other radionuclides, the filter backwash rule, etc. While the
research on the M/DBP Cluster and arsenic is important, these other
priority contaminants and future contaminants for regulatory action
cannot be neglected.
Long-range planning is needed to break the cycle of drinking water
research lagging behind the regulatory needs. Assume that EPA will
finish their overall contaminant research plan and have it peer
reviewed by mid-2001. Then, EPA issues a research request, receives
proposals, selects specific proposals, and contracts for the research.
This process will take at least six months, so the research would not
start until early 2002. Most research takes a minimum of two to three
years to complete, with an added year for complete peer review, so the
results would be available in 2006. The timing of this future research
(which is based on a lot of optimistic assumptions)) bumps up against
the statutory deadline for the second round of regulatory
determinations in 2001. Since EPA has put a strong emphasis on meeting
statutory deadlines, the result may be the promulgation of regulations
without the good science that was envisioned in the 1996 SDWA
Amendments. Long-range research planning efforts must be accelerated by
EPA to breaking cycle of research availability only after regulatory
decisions have been made.
Additional Drinking Water Research Improvements
Recently the National Research Council (NRC), an arm of the
National Academy Sciences (NAS) recommended that the position of deputy
administrator for science and technology be created within EPA to
oversee research throughout the agency. AWWA has long contended that
coordination of research in EPA needed to be improved. While EPA
recently has begun to improve the quantity and quality of its science,
a higher level of coordination is needed to ensure its effectiveness.
The current position of assistant administrator for research and
development does not have agency wide responsibility or authority to
oversee all of the science needed for policy-making. AWWA recommends
that the Congress give serious consideration to the NRC proposal.
AWWA also suggests that EPA work closely with other federal
agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
the National Institutes of Health, the US Department of Agriculture,
the US Army Corps of Engineers, etc., to leverage resources so that the
research efforts can be maximized. The Congress and EPA need to
continue to look for innovative research partnerships to get the job
done, similar to what was developed for the M/DBP cluster and arsenic.
Congress should also consider funding these partnerships for drinking
water research independent of other environmental research to give the
drinking water program, a public health program that affects every
person in the United States, the priority it deserves.
DRINKING WATER REGULATIONS
While timely, best available, peer-reviewed good science is
essential to intelligent regulatory decision-making, how that science
and other data are actually used in decision-making is critical. AWWA
is concerned about the scientific basis for some regulatory decisions.
Incomplete or old science, although it is the ``best-available'' may
still be inadequate science. Making regulatory decisions on inadequate
science is not in accordance with the intent of the 1996 SDWA
Amendments. The use of cost data and benefit assumptions appears to be
arbitrary and capricious in some cases. The following drinking water
regulations, either proposed or under development, illustrate AWWA's
concerns that EPA rulemaking is deficient in following the requirements
of the 1996 SDWA Amendments.
Arsenic research is too late to affect the final arsenic
regulation. The 1996 SDWA Amendments required EPA to propose a revised
arsenic regulation by January, 2000, and promulgate a final regulation
by January, 2001. The 1996 SDWA Amendments also required EPA to develop
a comprehensive research plan on low-levels or naturally occurring
arsenic. The objective of the plan was to develop an extensive arsenic
research program. The plan has been completed but has not yet been
fully executed and the vast majority of the research results will not
be ready in time to impact the regulation. The key issue for the
arsenic regulation is that the health effects data and the results of
the health effects research should have been completed by mid-1999 to
meet the deadlines for the arsenic proposal in the SDWA. Only five
major arsenic health effects research projects were started by that
time. Since EPA had not made a significant start on the bulk of the
necessary health effects (which will take several years to complete),
very little of the necessary research was completed in time to be used
in developing the proposed arsenic regulation.
The lack of realistic prioritization of the arsenic research, from
the AWWA viewpoint, has minimized the potential for the ongoing
research to substantially reduce the uncertainty in the arsenic risk
assessment. The ongoing research projects may (or may not) be the
specific projects that could have the most impact in reducing that
uncertainty, but nobody knows for sure at this point. AWWA is concerned
that some of the ongoing research may simply lead to the need for more
research rather than give answers that are meaningful for the
Data does not support an arsenic standard lower than 20 ppb. The
National Research Council (NRC) conducted a comprehensive review of the
arsenic risk assessment that was released last year. AWWA supports a
reduction in the current arsenic standard, as recommended by the NRC,
even though compliance will be costly for the public. In fact, AWWA has
gone on record supporting a level of no less than 10 parts per billion
(ppb) if the science backs it up. AWWA has publicly stated this
position for nearly 12 months giving the Agency the benefit of the
doubt that the critical questions regarding the uncertainties in health
effects (many of which are pointed out by the NRC) could be answered
prior to the publication of the proposed arsenic rule. Unfortunately,
AWWA believes the Agency has been unsuccessful in satisfactorily
answering these crucial questions. As documented in the detailed
comments to be submitted by AWWA to EPA on the proposed rule, AWWA
believes that a critical evaluation of the data that is presented by
EPA in the proposed arsenic regulation convincingly demonstrates that
20 ppb is the MCL that maximizes health risk reduction benefits at a
cost that is justified by the benefits. At a level of 10 ppb or lower,
the health risk reduction benefits become vanishingly small as compared
to the costs.
EPA has not credibly demonstrated a risk to the U.S. population to
justify lowering the standard to the proposed level. AWWA has
significant concerns regarding the basis upon which the proposed
arsenic regulation will be promulgated. The proposed arsenic rule is
incomplete, inconsistent, and inaccurate. The health benefits
anticipated by this proposal are minute and open to scientific debate.
EPA has significantly under estimated the impact of the proposed rule
because it has failed to develop a logical methodology for estimating
the costs and subsequently the benefits of the proposed rule.
One of the conclusions of the NRC study is that ``Additional
epidemiological evaluations are needed to characterize the dose-
response relationship for arsenic-associated cancer and non-cancer end
points, especially at low doses. Such studies are of critical
importance for improving the scientific validity of risk assessment.''
Some of the ongoing research being conducted by EPA (in accordance with
the Arsenic Research Plan) and work being conducted by the arsenic
research partnership between the AWWA Research Foundation (AWWARF), the
Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), and EPA includes
epidemiological studies that will address some of the NRC questions.
The research will provide some of the answers for the risk assessment;
however, none of these epidemiological studies will be completed until
AFTER the arsenic regulation is finalized.
EPA has ignored specific recommendations for the arsenic risk
assessment from the NRC report. The Executive Summary of NRC report
states that ``data that can help to determine the shape of the dose-
response curve in the range of extrapolation are inconclusive and do
not meet EPA's 1996 stated criteria for departure form the default
assumption of linearity.'' The report goes on to state ``Of the several
modes of action that are considered most plausible, a sublinear dose-
response curve in the low-dose range is predicted, although linearity
can not be ruled out.'' Here the panel considers a sublinear dose-
response curve ``most plausible''. It is AWWA's opinion that this whole
issue of dose-response extrapolation adds enormous uncertainty to the
standard setting process and makes high cost standards for arsenic in
the single digits very unrealistic. The linear extrapolation used by
EPA likely overstates the risk at low doses. The degree of potential
over-estimation increases as the proposed MCL is reduced to lower and
lower levels. What specific research does EPA have planned to address
the issue of non-linearity in the dose-response curve? Will this data
be available for the six-year review cycle?
In June, in a preliminary draft report, the Drinking Water
Committee of EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) said that the available
scientific evidence on arsenic's health effects could justify a
standard of 10 ppb or even 20 ppb under the 1996 SDWA Amendments. This
again calls into question the basis for EPA's proposed MCL of 5 ppb.
The SAB Drinking Water Committee noted that there are uncertainties
associated with the use of old Taiwanese data to estimate the risks
from arsenic and concluded that EPA may have misinterpreted the data
and overestimated lung cancer risks. According to the draft SAB report,
results from the Taiwanese and other studies should not be rigidly
extrapolated to the U.S. population. Poor nutritional status in Taiwan,
Chile, and India may have influenced the health effects. A 1999 study
conducted in Utah found no evidence of either bladder or lung cancer at
arsenic levels of 200 ppb, the report said. In addition, the report
noted that studies conducted in animals have shown that deficiencies in
selenium substantially increases the toxicity of arsenic. Urinary
concentrations of selenium in the area of Taiwan were found to be
between three and four micrograms per liter, as opposed to 60
micrograms per liter in the United States. The report also noted that
there other nutritional factors which were not taken into account by
EPA. These studies should not be summarily dismissed or used
inconsistently by EPA is in the case of the proposed arsenic rule.
Clearly the scientific basis upon which to base such a revised
arsenic standard is questionable at best. In light of the SAB draft
report and the NRC study, the scientific data is not necessarily as
strong as previously thought. EPA recognized in the recent abstract of
the Utah cohort mortality study that the relationship between health
effects and exposure to drinking water arsenic is not well established
in the U.S. populations. EPA concluded that further evaluation of
potential health effects in low-exposure U.S. populations is warranted.
By its own admission, the Agency does not clearly understand the health
effects issues as they relate to U.S. populations. Since the science on
which to base an MCL of 5 ppb is questionable, how can EPA justify the
high cost of the MCL?
The cost-benefit analysis is not adequate and does not meet the
requirements of the SDWA. Even though EPA's own cost-benefits analysis
concludes that the costs are greater than the benefits, the net
negative benefit increases significantly when the appropriate costs,
latency, and discounting adjustments are incorporated into the
analysis. The net negative benefits become astronomical at the proposed
arsenic standard of 5 ppb. Clearly, EPA doesn't understand the
magnitude of their errors in the cost-benefit analysis, nor does EPA
understand the magnitude of this proposal's impact on small
communities. The proposed arsenic standard of 5 ppb literally has the
potential to drive many small communities out of the drinking water
The inadequate cost-benefit analysis presented by EPA is
particularly troubling in light of the cost-benefit flexibility that
was specifically inserted in Section 1412(b)(6) of the 1996 Safe
Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Amendments for situations just like this. The
proposed arsenic regulation is the most compelling case to date for
using this flexibility, however, there is no practical way to make
public policy decisions without an appropriate cost-benefit analysis.
EPA invoked the cost benefit provisions of the SDWA to support the
choice of an MCL of 5 ppb for arsenic. However, EPA did not employ a
marginal analysis to justify this decision. EPA has not therefore
performed a proper cost benefit analysis and has not complied with the
SDWA. SDWA compliance inherently exhibits diminishing returns. As lower
and lower treatment targets are considered, costs increase at an
increasing rate while the increment of exposure reduction achieved
diminishes with each additional increment of stringency. This
relationship implies that there is a balance point where the marginal
benefit obtained equals the marginal cost and net benefits are
maximized. This is the right way to use cost benefit analysis to
justify a decision. However, this is not what EPA did to justify the
proposed arsenic MCL.
EPA discussed an aggregate comparison of total costs and benefits
to justify its choice of an MCL. In this procedure, the more favorable
relationship between benefits and costs from the first increments of
additional stringency (i.e., moving from 50 ppb to 20 ppb) are averaged
in with the less favorable data relating to the last increments (i.e.,
moving from 10 ppb to 5 ppb). EPA based its decision on a comparison of
these aggregates (and other risk criteria of its own making). The SDWA
specifically states that the incremental costs and benefits associated
with each alternative MCL must be considered. EPA presents such values
but provides no discussion of them and does not incorporate them into
its justification, relying instead on aggregate cost benefit comparison
and analysis of uncertainties on the benefits side. The aggregate
comparison performed by EPA embodies a decision rule that is structured
such that it will always over-shoot the economically optimal level of
stringency that would be prescribed by marginal analysis. EPA's
decision rule is arbitrary and has no standing in economic analysis. It
is not a cost benefit analysis and does not meet the clear or implied
intent of the SDWA.
The cost methodology presented in the proposal is incomplete and
inconsistent throughout the proposal. The presentation of cost is
arguably the worst that AWWA has seen in any drinking water regulation.
It is unclear how EPA developed the national compliance costs. EPA has
not provided any estimates of total capital costs, which is unusual for
a major drinking water regulation. Computing the total capital costs
could have helped identify errors that are apparent in the O&M costs.
In calculating the O&M costs, the amortized cost of the capital
investment appears to exceed EPA's estimate for the total national cost
(capital and O&M). In addition, EPA unrealistically assumes that many
treatment plants will be able to dispose of their residuals waste
streams to a sanitary sewer. The reality is that many wastewater plants
will not accept these waste streams for a multitude of reasons, but
primarily due to the increased Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). This
assumption leads to substantially lower national compliance cost
estimates than is likely to be the case.
AWWA has been looking closely at the cost numbers in the arsenic
proposal and found significant discrepancies between the cost data
referenced in the proposal and the numbers in the Regulatory Impact
Analysis (RIA). When AWWA asked EPA to explain these discrepancies, EPA
disclosed that the Unit Cost Curves (used to predict compliance cost
based on the technology chosen and design flow) shown in the Technology
and Cost Document were not the curves EPA actually used in the RIA.
Without the actual Unit Cost Curves that EPA used, there is no way to
verify EPA's national compliance cost estimates for a revised arsenic
standard. The curves that were actually used have not been disclosed
and without them (and supporting documentation) it is not possible to
independently assess whether EPA used reasonable assumptions or to
judge whether EPA's cost estimates are high, low, or on the mark. It is
our understanding that EPA will publish on Notice of Data Availability
(NODA) on the Unit Cost curves actually used, with all supporting
documentation, and allow a full thirty day comment period on the NODA.
This will allow others to assess how EPA developed its cost estimates
and comment on their validity.
The AWWA Research Foundation (AWWARF) did an independent analysis
of the costs of implementing the arsenic drinking water regulation at
varying MCLs. The differences in estimates were significant. The
5 ppb 10 ppb 20 ppb
EPA Estimate......................... $378 million/year...... $164 million/year...... $62 million/year
AWWA Estimate........................ $1.46 billion/year..... $605 million/year...... $55 million/year
These widely differing cost estimates need to be reconciled before
the final rule is promulgated. AWWA and AWWARF are working with EPA to
better understand the differences.
AWWA believes EPA should take the full twelve months between the
proposal and promulgation of the arsenic regulation as provided by
Congress through the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The arsenic drinking water regulation was proposed June 22nd, and
comments are due to EPA on September 20th. However, because the rule
has been delayed and EPA has a statutory deadline to promulgate the
final regulation in January 2001, AWWA is deeply concerned that EPA
will not have sufficient time to evaluate comments and that an MCL
based on inadequate science and cost and benefit data may be
promulgated. EPA needs this time to critically evaluate the information
received during this public comment period and make careful
consideration to changes in the final regulation prior to its
promulgation. AWWA believes that allowing a statutory deadline to drive
imprudent public policy decisions would be unfortunate. If this occurs,
the public will suffer from an untenable and unsupportable regulation
of arsenic. Based on the information presented in this statement and
comments submitted to EPA, the ethical action on the part of the Agency
would be to retract their existing proposal and start afresh in a
transparent stakeholder-based process to develop the drinking water
standard for arsenic. Should the Agency decide to proceed on its
current course of action, AWWA believes that the critical evaluation of
the data presented by EPA in this proposed arsenic regulation shows
that the prudent maximum contaminant level (MCL) that protects public
health is 20 ppb.
Microbial, Disinfectant & Disinfection By-Products Cluster
This ``cluster'' of regulations is the most significant and
potentially the most costly of all drinking water regulations required
in the 1996 SDWA amendments. It includes Disinfectant/Disinfection By-
Product Rules, Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rules, a Filter
Backwash Rule and the Groundwater Rule. The regulations in this
``cluster'' require substantial research, most of which will not be
completed by the time indicated in the SDWA.
Disinfectant/Disinfection By-Products Rules (D/DBP): Research on
microbial contaminants and disinfectants and disinfection by-products
is a critical need. Each day there are roughly 50,000 deaths in the
world attributed to microbial contamination of drinking water. Much of
this threat has essentially been eliminated in the United States
through disinfection of drinking water. However, it is now known that
disinfection of drinking water can produce chemical by-products, some
of which are suspected human carcinogens or may cause other toxic
effects. Controlling risks from these by-products must be carefully
balanced against microbial risks to ensure that when reducing
disinfection levels or changing treatment to lower by-product risk,
significant microbial risks are not created.
Research on disinfectants and disinfection by-products, as endorsed
by the National Academy of Sciences and EPA's Science Advisory Board,
is essential. The cost to the nation of microbial and disinfection by-
products regulations under the SDWA will certainly be in the billions
and could be as high as $60 billion or more depending on the final
rule. An appropriate investment in health effects research will ensure
that costs of regulation will be commensurate with the health benefit
and not driven to extremes because of the lack of data.
Cryptosporidium is a microbial pathogen of major concern to
drinking water supplies. The Centers for Disease Control, in
correspondence with EPA, has pointed out that extensive research on the
health implications of this pathogen and dramatic improvements in
analytical methods for its detection are necessary before it is
possible to evaluate the public health implications of its occurrence
at low levels and determine the appropriate regulatory response.
Adequate funding for research on Cryptosporidium, as well as other
emerging pathogens, is essential to protect the health of millions of
Negotiated Rulemaking for Stage 2 of the D/DBP Rule: The
negotiations on Stage 2 of the D/DBP rule were completed on September
7, 2000, and members of the FACA (Federal Advisory Committee Act)
negotiating committee have agreed to urge their respective
organizations to sign the agreement by September 29, 2000. The
agreement is risk-based and involves a long-term treatment technique
approach that is based on a measured and proportional response to raw
water quality. This departure from the ``one-size-fits all'' approach
is perhaps one of the most significant aspects of the agreement and
will recognize watershed control and source water protection among the
notable activities in a ``tool box'' approach to achieving the goals of
the 1996 SDWA amendments to balance the chronic risk from DBPs and the
acute risk of waterborne diseases from microbial contamination. The
agreement allows for the use of ozone, chlorine-based products and
ultraviolet light for microbial inactivation. AWWA will consider
whether that the agreement fairly balances the competing public health
concerns in an effective manner in deciding whether to sign the
Filter Back Wash Rule: The final Filter Backwash Rule was scheduled
to be promulgated by August 2000. However, this rule has become a major
concern since there is not much data on which to base a regulation and
the potential for significant compliance costs and the rule has not yet
For the Filter Backwash Rule, EPA assembled a collection of studies
that appears to reflect 1,907 individual surface water samples. As
presented, this assemblage cannot be directly related to drinking water
sources. Few of these individual studies obtained positive samples and
large data sets appear to be prone to lower observed occurrence than
smaller data sets. Twenty-six of the studies either reported ranges of
observation including zero or neglected to provide a range of
Most disturbing is that the assembled studies did not include the
most recent and comprehensive survey of drinking water treatment plant
effluent water concentrations available from the Information Collection
Rule (ICR) data collected over 18 months in 1997 and 1998. During that
data collection process, public water systems serving greater than
100,000 persons collected monthly protozoan samples using an existing
EPA approved method. The resulting data has been available to EPA since
December 1999. The raw ICR data suggests that less than 7 percent of
large public water systems use source waters that contain
Cryptosporidium oocysts at detectable levels. Preliminary estimates
from statistical models of this data indicate that the median oocyst
concentration to be approximately 0.03 oocysts per liter rather than
the values of 4.70 and 10.64 oocysts per liter cited by EPA in their
proposal for the Filter Backwash Rule. After all the cost and time
involved to collect this information under the requirements of the ICR,
why is EPA discounting this most recent information?
EPA correctly points out the difficulties in performing
Cryptosporidium analysis for filter backwash samples. Where recovery
data are provided in the literature, the rates typically have been low.
It is important to point out that the volumes analyzed have been very
small due to high turbidity in the samples. It is not uncommon for
spent filter backwash samples to have equivalent volumes analyzed of
much less than one liter. Therefore, the focus by EPA on high outlier
levels of oocysts reported is unjustified. EPA is aware of the
uncertainties of individual protozoan measurements and citing these
outlier values violates the sound statistics that have been developed
by EPA and others over the past several years to better understand
protozoan data. The 1996 SDWA Amendments call for the use of ``best
available'' science. EPA does not appear to be following this provision
of the law in the Filter Backwash Rule.
EPA is under a statutory deadline to finalize the radon drinking
water regulation by August 6, 2000; however, the rule has not yet been
finalized AWWA has significant concerns about whether regulating radon
in drinking water is cost effective--particularly the primary Maximum
Contaminant Level (MCL) of 300 picocuries per liter. For the radon
drinking water regulation to provide effective public health benefits,
it is essential that states adopt a multi-media mitigation (MMM)
program to abate radon in indoor air which is the primary threat to
However, AWWA believes that there are some flaws in establishing
the primary MCL. AWWA has repeatedly indicated to EPA our numerous
concerns regarding the Health Risk Reduction and Cost Analysis (HRRCA)
for radon. These concerns cover a wide range of issues such as life
years saved estimates, latency times, discounting rates, cumulative
costs of regulation, affordability, entry points to the distribution
system, and treatment costs. Many of these factors can have a dramatic
impact on the benefit-cost ratio. Depending on the assumptions, the
cost-benefit ratio can vary from a high of 0.95, indicating a
reasonable comparison of benefits to costs, to a low of 0.04, where the
costs are clearly extreme compared to the benefits received.
The first and foremost issue is a policy concern in determination
of when ``benefits justify costs.'' Some Federal Agencies use a cost
benefit ratio to justify an expenditure. The US Army Corps of
Engineers, for example, uses a ratio of 1:2. Studies on the lead
service line replacement portion of the Lead and Copper Rule show a
dismal cost benefit ratio of 100:1. Prudent public policy dictates that
federally mandated expenditures at the state and local level should
have a ratio where benefits exceed costs.
Costs from the radon HRRCA show that it will have a devastating
impact on small water systems, which are the majority of systems
expected to take action as a result of the regulation. Simply looking
at national costs, in aggregate, allows economies of scale for larger
systems to mask the regulations affect on smaller systems. When one
looks at the very very small systems category cost benefit ratios range
from a disappointing 20:1 to 50:1. To make matters worse, benefits
accrue locally in tiny increments. Again in the very very small system
size, costs are estimated at $10,000 per year, with a corresponding
10,000-14,000 years between statistical cancer cases avoided. Clearly
the primary MCL should take into account the regulatory impacts on
small systems, which it does not.
The accounting of benefits in the HRRCA is inconsistent with common
risk assessment and risk management principles. For example, risk
assessment and management in the EPA's drinking water program typically
assumes a 70-year exposure period. This implies that 1/70 of the
benefits will appear in the first year after implementation, 2/70 in
the second year and so on. The HRRCA grossly over estimates benefits by
assuming that the full benefit of the regulation is realized in the
first year, and succeeding years. The HRRCA should have been revised to
reflect a phase in, or latency period, for benefits.
Also of concern is the failure of the HRRCA to account properly for
time in the benefits estimate. The HRRCA discounts costs of a 7% annual
rate, but does not discount benefits at all. This inflates the benefits
estimate. Costs and benefits should be discounted at the same rate and
the HRRCA should reflect this. AWWA estimates that the failure to phase
in benefits and the failure to consider the timing of benefits shifts
the cost benefit ratio from approximately 1:1 an to unfavorable 5:1, or
With the cost benefit ratios for the primary MCL shifting
negatively, the multi-media mitigation program that Congress wrote into
the 1996 SDWA Amendments becomes critical to providing a public health
benefit. The EPA's 1994 Report to Congress placed the dollar cost of
saving a life through a radon indoor air program at $700,000. This is
almost ten times lower than the cost to save a statistical life through
drinking water efforts on radon. AWWA supports the concept of the MMM
program; however, AWWA has a significant concern that the MMM program
in the statute and in the proposed radon regulation will not work as
intended. There is little incentive in the SDWA for a State to adopt a
MMM program simply to enforce the alternative MCL for radon rather than
the primary MCL. In States that do not adopt a MMM program for radon,
the costs to drinking water consumers will be exorbitant with very
little public health benefit.
AWWA urges Congress to provide incentives in the Indoor Air Radon
Abatement Act for States to adopt a MMM program that would meet the
requirements for a State to enforce the alternate MCL for radon. This
would put the MMM program and requirement in the air program where it
more rightfully belongs and provide resources for the States to
successfully implement the MMM program. If all States have a MMM
program, the alternate MCL will provide more public health benefit and
at a more reasonable cost than the primary MCL. AWWA also believes that
there should be a single standard for radon in drinking water based on
the MMM since the major health threat is from air. AWWA recommends that
the Congress address this flaw in the SDWA as soon as possible before
the American people are faced with the exorbitant cost that would
result from enforcing the primary MCL in the proposed regulation.
AWWA, through its volunteers and contractors, has invested
significant time and resources on the benefit-cost analysis (BCA) in
the Notice of Data Availability (NODA) that was published on April 21st
for the Radionulclides Rule. The BCA components, and the process to fit
them together, used in the NODA are critical, as this is one of the
first BCA conducted under the new provisions of the 1996 Safe Drinking
Water Act Amendments.
At this time, AWWA does not believe that the BCA presented in the
radionuclides NODA meets the requirements of Section 1412(b)(4)(C) of
the SDWA. EPA simply put the costs in one column, and the benefits in
another column to meet this requirement. AWWA believes that a much more
robust BCA must be included in the final regulation, and the lack of a
more robust BCA in the final regulation would be considered arbitrary
and capricious and contrary to the clear SDWA language
Considerable mention is made in the NODA of the EPA ``policy'' that
MCLs must be established such that individual lifetime cancer risks do
not exceed a threshold of 10-\4\. This notion that a maximum
``allowable risk'' (of 10-\4\) is the ultimate binding
constraint on EPA rulemaking--regardless of what the costs of the rule
are, or how the benefits compare to those costs--is quite troubling.
Clearly, there is no statutory mandate or authority to have a self-
defined and self-imposed Agency policy on an ``acceptable risk'' floor.
The 1996 SDWA Amendments do not impose or envision such a constraint.
Consider a case in which the cost of a potential MCL was not justified
by its benefits, but where the estimated cancer risk at a less
stringent alternative exceeded the 10-\4\ level. The NODA
language appears to clearly state that the Administrator would be
obliged to set the MCL at the unjustified level (to maintain a
10-\4\ risk ceiling) rather than follow the letter and
intent of the statute and set a less stringent MCL that was indeed
justified on a reasonable benefit-cost basis. EPA should explicitly
clarify whether this indeed is its intent and interpretation of the
statute. If this is the case, then the ``acceptable risk'' floor of
10-\4\ is more of a rule than a policy, and EPA should
publish an ``acceptable risk'' proposal that allows for public comment
on such a critical issue.
DRINKING WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
According to the EPA Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey
released on January 31, 1997, $12.1 billion is needed in the immediate
future to protect drinking water supplies. Of this amount, $10.2
billion, or 84 percent, is needed to protect water from microbial
contaminants which can produce immediate illness or death. According to
the needs survey, between 1995 and 2015, a total of $138.4 billion will
be needed to upgrade the infrastructure of the nation's water utilities
to meet requirements of the SDWA. It is also important to note that
this figure does not include other drinking water infrastructure needs,
such as replacing aging transmission and distribution facilities, which
are not eligible for funding from the Drinking Water State Revolving
In an independent analysis, AWWA estimates that the total drinking
water needs, taking full account of infrastructure replacement needs,
is on the order of $385 billion over a twenty year period. The Water
Infrastructure Network (WIN), of which AWWA is a member, recently
released a report that estimates that the total drinking water and
waste water infrastructure needs over a twenty year period approaches
one trillion dollars. AWWA will soon release a report that will outline
the size and shape of the investment need for drinking water in the
United States. The findings illustrate that the size of the need will
vary from place to place, reflecting the age, character and history of
the community. The AWWA report raises the questions that need to be
addressed to determine how best to meet the Nation's drinking water
The report concludes that, in the aggregate, after accounting for
the potential of best practices in asset management, research and new
technologies, efforts to increase ratepayer awareness and support, and
possible alternative compliance scenarios, in some utilities there
still remains a ``gap'' between what is needed for infrastructure re-
investment and what is practical to fund through water rates. This gap
can be expected to grow over the next few decades as a reflection an
infrastructure building boom years ago that will begin to reach the end
of its useful life.
AWWA remains committed to the principle of full cost recovery
through water rates as the essential under-pinning of local
sustainability of water infrastructure. Longer term, the objective
should be to flatten the replacement function and restore utilities to
full cost recovery and financial sustainability.
AWWA does not expect that federal funds will be available for 100
percent of the infrastructure needs of the nation's water utilities.
The DWSRF is a loan program with a state match. Ultimately, the rate-
paying public will have to pay for the nation's drinking water
infrastructure, regardless of whether financing comes from the DWSRF or
other sources. However, AWWA does believe that DWSRF funding is a major
issue for congressional oversight to ensure that federal funding is
adequately available to meet the intended purposes of the SDWA. Over
the next twenty years, it is clear that SDWA compliance requirements
and infrastructure needs will compete for limited capital resources.
Infrastructure needs and SDWA compliance can no longer be approached as
separate issues. Oversight should take place in the context of the
total compliance and infrastructure need and how the needs should be
apportioned among the various financing mechanisms and sources.
There are a number of enhancements to the DWSRF that should be
considered to increase its effectiveness, such as:
increasing the authorized DWSRF funding levels to fund SDWA
compliance projects and other needs.
expanding the DWSRF to encompass system rehabilitation and
replacement in addition to SDWA compliance as eleigible
expenditures, allowing communities to take a more comprhensive
approach to providing safe drinking water. As drinking water
regulations become more stringent, upgrading the distribution
system, like protecting drinking water sources, becomes a
larger factor in maintaining the regulated safety level until
the water reaches the consumer.
Examining strategies for streamlining current operations of
DWSRFs and strategies to encourage more innovative use of
DWSRFs at the state level.
AWWA will provide a copy of the forthcoming AWWA report to members
of the committee. We look forward to working with you to help resolve
the Nation's growing drinking water infrastructure needs.
METHYL TERTIARY BUTYL ETHER (MTBE)
Although it is not the subject of this hearing, we believe that we
would be remiss to not mention methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE)
contamination of drinking water. MTBE contamination is an issue that
cuts across the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery
Act (RCRA) and the Safe Drinking Water Act. MTBE contamination clearly
illustrates the pitfalls of regulating within a statutory ``stove
pipe'' and why coordination across programs is necessary within EPA.
The Clean Air Act of 1990 required that areas of the country with
certain air quality problems use reformulated gasoline (RFG) with an
increased oxygen content. MTBE is the oxygen additive most commonly
used by the petroleum industry to satisfy the RFG mandate. Since MTBE
is very soluble in water and does not ``cling'' to soil well, it has a
tendency to migrate much more quickly into water than other components
of gasoline. The use of MTBE has created a significant and unacceptable
risk to drinking water supplies and groundwater resources. At levels as
low as 20 parts per billion, MTBE makes drinking water unfit for human
consumption because of taste and odor. It should also be noted that
MTBE has been detected in the taste and odor of drinking water at
levels as low as 2 parts per billion.
In Santa Monica, California, seven wells supplying 50 percent of
the water for the city were shut down because of MTBE concentrations as
high as 600 parts per billion. It is estimated that it will cost the
city $150,000,000 to develop new water sources. This does not include
the cost of remediation and treatment of the contaminated wells. Cases
of persistent MTBE plumes extending for kilometer-scale distances in
the subsurface have been documented in Port Hueneme, California; Spring
Creek, Wisconsin; and East Patchoque, New York. Recent testing
conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS) shows MTBE has been found
in approximately 20 percent of the groundwater in RFG areas. As many as
9,000 community water wells in 31 states may be affected by
contamination from MTBE. The data was from one-third of the wells in
those states and is generally representative of the entire nation.
Source water is being impacted from a variety of sources including
pipeline leaks, spills, leaking underground storage tanks, and
recreational boating on source waters.
According to the report of the EPA Blue Ribbon Panel on Oxygenates
in Gasoline, a major source of groundwater MTBE contamination appears
to be releases from underground gasoline storage tanks. The EPA Blue
Ribbon Panel on Oxygenates in Gasoline recommended enhanced funding
from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund to ensure
that treatment of MTBE contaminated drinking water supplies can be
funded. The LUST funds could only be used for contamination resulting
from leaking underground storage tanks. Since leaking underground
storage tanks appear to be the major source of MTBE contamination in
ground water, the LUST Trust fund is an existing option to consider as
a source of potential funding assistance for some cases of MTBE
contamination of drinking water supplies in circumstances that meet the
criteria of the law. As part of MTBE legislation, AWWA recommends that
Congress amend RCRA to clarify the use of the LUST Trust Fund to
provide alternative drinking water supplies or treatment for drinking
water sources contaminated by MTBE from leaking underground storage
tanks. AWWA is very pleased that Senator Smith has addressed this issue
in draft legislation circulated on June 13, 2000. We thank Senator
Smith and other Senators and staff for their assistance on this issue.
In testimony before the House VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies
Appropriations Subcommittee and in a similar statement submitted to the
Senate VA. HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee,
AWWA recommended that Congress appropriate at least $100,000,000 for
LUST to accelerate the clean up of LUST sites with priority for MTBE
contaminated sites to prevent contamination of water supplies. There is
a backlog of about 169,000 LUST site clean ups. EPA and the States have
put increased emphasis on monitoring for MTBE as part of the
Underground Storage Tank (UST) program so the number of MTBE
contaminated sites may increase. Eliminating leaking tanks is an
immediate remedy to protect drinking water supplies from further
contamination until MTBE is phased out or eliminated.
Congress appropriated $70,000,000 for the LUST program in FY 2000.
The FY 2001 President's budget requests $72,100,000 for the LUST
program. AWWA strongly believes that the requested increase is not
sufficient to accelerate cleanups of LUST sites that are difficult to
remediate because they are contaminated by MTBE. EPA's goal for FY 2001
to complete 21,000 LUST cleanups is commendable but not adequate to
address the immediate needs of millions of Americans who no longer can
drink the water from their wells. An aggressive, high priority effort
is necessary to cleanup sources of MTBE from leaking underground
storage tanks as quickly as possible. AWWA is pleased that the House
Appropriations Committee increased the LUST appropriation to
$79,000,000 for FY 2001; however, no additional funding was
appropriated in the Senate. AWWA requests that the joint conference on
the VA. HUD and Independent Agencies appropriations bill accept the
House LUST appropriation.
Numerous bills have been introduced in Congress and draft
legislation circulated that would amend the Clean Air Act to ban or
phase out MTBE as a fuel additive. EPA has recently called for Congress
to amend the oxygenate requirement in the Clean Air Act to ban or phase
out the use of MTBE as a fuel additive. The EPA Blue Ribbon Panel on
Oxygenates in Gasoline recommended action to amend the Clean Air Act to
remove the oxygenates requirement and to clarify federal and state
authority to regulate and/or eliminate the use of gasoline additives
that threaten drinking water.
AWWA has developed the following legislative principles that will
address the contamination of drinking water sources by MTBE:
1. Amend the Clean Air Act to significantly reduce or eliminate the use
of MTBE as a fuel additive.
2. Ensure that air quality gains are not diminished as MTBE use is
reduced or eliminated.
3. Require adequate research to be conducted on any replacement fuel
additive for MTBE to ensure that a replacement will not
contaminant drinking water sources.
4. Provide federal funding assistance to public water systems that have
MTBE contaminated water sources for treatment or alternative
AWWA recommends that Congress take swift action on legislation
necessary to prevent further contamination of water supplies by MTBE or
other fuel additives and provide assistance to public water systems
that have MTBE contaminated water supplies. We look forward to working
with the Congress to advance legislation addressing this critical
We have covered a lot of issues in our statement today. Although
much of the statement appears critical of EPA, we want to emphasize
that EPA has made a good faith effort in other areas to implement the
1996 SDWA amendments. The agency's outreach and involvement of
stakeholders in the regulatory process is to be commended. However, our
concerns raised in how EPA uses science and cost benefit analysis in
regulations are valid and are issues that bear watching by the
We look forward to working with the committee on MTBE and drinking
water infrastructure issues. We thank you for your consideration of our
This concludes the AWWA statement on the implementation of the 1996
Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments. I would be pleased to answer any
questions or provide additional material for the committee.
Mr. Deal. Thank you, sir.
STATEMENT OF DAVID L. TIPPIN
Mr. Tippin. Thank you very much. Good morning, members of
the subcommittee. I am David Tippin. I am director of Tampa
Florida Water Department. We serve about a half a million
people in the Tampa area with clean, safe drinking water. I am
also a board member and recent President of the Association of
Metropolitan Water Agencies, which represents the largest
municipal drinking water agencies in the United States.
Thank you for holding this hearing. The subcommittee's
commitment to a well run drinking water program that ensures
safe, affordable drinking water for all customers is very
I would also like to thank Chairman Bilirakis and
Congressman Brown for agreeing to co-chair the Water
Infrastructure Caucus. The drinking water and the waste water
community is hopeful that the caucus will help resolve the
overwhelming infrastructure needs faced by municipal water
I would also like to thank Chairman Bilirakis for his
leadership in defeating H.R. 623 and Congressman Pallone for
his help during the markup in which the bill was defeated. H.R.
623 proposed to repeal important water conservation measures in
the Energy Policy Act.
With regard to implementation of the Safe Drinking Water
Act Amendments of 1996, I would like to commend EPA for its
remarkable efforts. The amendments set out a demanding
regulatory schedule and the EPA has made it a priority to meet
State regulators deserve our recognition, too. The list of
Federal regulations that States must implement has become
larger and more demanding each year since the 1996 amendments
were enacted. I might want to add, too, that most of the
States, I know Florida is one of them, as I presume many of
your States, are having funding problems, too, along with
trying to meet budgets for these items, also.
The last time I testified on this issue was January 31,
1996. Our main concern then and our main concern today is the
need to develop drinking water standards based on sound
science. Congress shares this concern and enacted the sound
science mandate in a bipartisan fashion in the 1996 amendments.
AMWA is supportive of regulations that neither underregulate or
overregulate. In other words, the Association urges EPA to
develop regulations to protect health based on accurate health
Congress took a major step when it gave EPA the flexibility
to let science determine drinking water standards. This is the
cornerstone of the 1996 amendments and it recognizes that the
most serious threat to public health should be addressed first
because resources are limited at all levels of government. The
mandate recognizes that the public, who must ultimately bear
the increased cost of drinking water regulations, ought to
receive true value for what they are being asked to spend.
Given this, the Association has a number of concerns with
the agency on how the agency is incorporating science into the
standard setting program. For instance, EPA recently finalized
the maximum contaminant level of zero for chloroform, despite
noting in the final rule that the best available peer-reviewed
science indicated that a level above zero would have been more
Also, EPA proposed a filter backwash rule while
acknowledging the lack of sufficient scientific information to
know what risk might be involved. It would be unreasonable to
expect perfection given an ever changing base of scientific
knowledge. Nevertheless, the importance of meeting the sound
science provisions of the act must be stressed. Focusing on the
deadlines of the act to the point of ignoring sound science
provisions deprives the public of sensible cost effective
That is why in June AMWA made a request before the Senate
Subcommittee on Wildlife and Water in testimony for a report by
the General Accounting Office to determine how well EPA is
fulfilling the Safe Water Drinking Act's sound science mandate.
Also, in the 1996 amendments Congress called on EPA to
develop health risk reduction and cost analysis documents to be
published for public comment at the same time the rule is
proposed. With a straightforward analysis of risk and cost, the
public will know the answer to a very basic question: What am I
getting for my money?
So far EPA's cost and risk analyses are not published for
comment in the Federal Register along with the proposed rule.
Additionally, the analyses stray from normal cost-benefit
practices. In some cases, EPA chooses to discount costs but not
benefits. Thus, the agency compares what we in Florida know as
kumquats to oranges. You may know them as apples to oranges.
This is why the Association has recommended an independent
review of how well EPA's cost-benefit analyses conform to
standard practices of the requirements of the act.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony
today. We have enjoyed working with members of the subcommittee
as well as Counsel Bob Meyers and Dick Frandsen, and I also
look forward to working with you in the future to ensure safe,
affordable drinking water for the Nation.
I would be happy to answer any questions you have.
[The prepared statement of David L. Tippin follows:]
Prepared Statement of David L. Tippin, Director, City of Tampa Water
Department on Behalf of Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies
Good morning. I'm David Tippin, and I'm the director of the Tampa,
Florida, Water Department. We serve nearly a half-million people in the
Tampa area with clean, safe drinking water.
I am also a board member and recent president of the Association of
Metropolitan Water Agencies (``AMWA''), which represents the largest
municipal drinking water agencies in the United States.
Thank you for holding this hearing.
Since late 1996, when the Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act
were enacted, the Environmental Protection Agency has developed a
number of new rules and programs. These include a source water
assessment program, a rule requiring annual water quality reports for
consumers, an updated program for water systems to inform consumers of
violations of drinking water regulations, and a loan program for
drinking water systems.
One of the most important fundamental changes brought about by
these Amendments is Congress directive to the Agency to rely on the
best available, peer-reviewed science and supporting studies conducted
in accordance with sound and objective scientific practices.
To meet the requirements of the 1996 Amendments, EPA is at work on
a number of new rules. These include rules governing filter backwash,
ground water disinfection, radon, other radionuclides and, most
recently, arsenic. Also, EPA, water suppliers and environmental
organizations have completed negotiations over the second phase of a
rule to control microbes and the chemical byproducts of disinfection.
And finally, EPA with the help of the National Drinking Water Advisory
Council is establishing a process to determine other contaminants to
regulate from the Contaminant Candidate List.
Support for EPA and the States
The last time AMWA testified on implementation of the Safe Drinking
Water Act was before any major, new regulations had been issued under
the 1996 revisions. The Act set out a demanding regulatory schedule,
and AMWA commends EPA's Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water for
its hard work. Also in previous testimony, AMWA strongly supported
adequate funding for EPA's drinking water program as key to attaining
the promise of the new Act. Today, we reiterate that support and call
your attention to several areas of funding need.
AMWA's major concern, given the requirements of the Act for the use
of sound science, is adequate drinking water research funding. Research
is critical to ensuring that drinking water regulations address
contaminants that actually occur in drinking water and that occur at
levels of public health concern. This is important so that the limited
resources at all levels of government--federal, state, and local--are
directed at high-priority risks. It is also critical for the public,
who must ultimately bear the increased costs of drinking water driven
by new regulations, to receive true value for what they are being asked
to spend. This year, EPA has requested nearly $49 million in drinking
water research funding. AMWA believes that this is the minimum needed,
and we urge you and your colleagues to support this request.
AMWA also would like to express its support for our state
regulators. The Safe Drinking Water Act authorizes federal funding for
up to 75 percent of state implementation costs. As the list of federal
regulations that states must implement becomes larger and more
demanding each year, federal support should rise, too. Seeking to
ensure the Safe Drinking Water Act is implemented as per Congress
intent, AWMA recommends that state primacy programs be funded at
Lastly, we encourage Congress to support the authorized level of $1
billion per year, at a minimum, for the Drinking Water State Revolving
Fund. This program assists water systems throughout the country in
building facilities to meet the new requirements of the Act.
Areas Where Implementation Can Be Improved
We have already noted the remarkable amount of effort EPA has put
into implementing the 1996 Amendments, but we would also like to
express a number of concerns and to offer recommended actions. The
Agency is already aware of these recommendations, as they appeared in
AMWAs official comments on various proposed rules.
Source Water Protection. First and foremost, AMWA looks to EPA to
better coordinate its various programs to prevent pollution of the
nation's drinking water sources. It is more effective and more
equitable to prevent pollution in the first place rather than rely on
drinking water suppliers to install ever more complex and costly
treatment to remove that pollution from the public's water. It is more
effective for two reasons. First, no treatment technology removes all
contaminants 100 percent of the time. Second, prevention at the source
for many contaminants reduces threats to recreational use of water
sources as well as the aquatic environment. It is more equitable, since
preventing pollution at its source ensures that those responsible for
it bear the costs of removal, rather than transferring those costs to
drinking water system customers.
The case of MTBE, the gasoline additive approved by EPA under the
Clean Air Act, provides an example of why coordination is needed. At
the time MTBE was approved for use, EPA's scientists warned that,
because of its characteristics, pollution of drinking water supplies
was likely. The additive was nevertheless approved, and now we have
extensive MTBE contamination of drinking water supplies. Consideration
of drinking water concerns in the initial decision would have led to
Indeed, the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act offer many
opportunities for coordination to protect drinking water sources.
The Use of Sound Science. The revised Safe Drinking Water Act
stresses the use of sound science in developing and making regulatory
decisions. As previously noted, AMWA has strongly supported increased
research funding for drinking water to meet this purpose.
Unfortunately, recent events have given all of us reason for concern.
As you may know, EPA finalized a maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG)
for chloroform at zero, despite noting in the final rule that the best
available, peer-reviewed science indicated a non-zero value was more
appropriate. EPA has now vacated the chloroform standard after a court
ruling that the agency failed to use the best-available science.
More recently, EPA proposed a Filter Backwash Rule while
acknowledging that they lack sufficient scientific information to know
what risks might be involved, the effectiveness of current treatment,
or the benefits that the public might receive from implementation of
the rule. EPA's own Science Advisory Board has pointed out major
deficiencies in the proposal.
While AMWA appreciates that the demanding schedule laid out in the
Safe Drinking Water Act may lead to some oversights, we urge you to
stress to EPA the importance of meeting the sound science provisions of
the Act. We also recommend that Congress be open to changing statutory
deadlines when there is reasonable expectation that additional, near-
term information will better provide for the public's interests.
Focusing on the mandated timelines in the Act to the point of ignoring
its other provisions will not ultimately lead to the sensible, cost
effective regulations the public deserves.
Health Risk Reduction and Cost Analyses. One of the most
significant provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act is the
requirement for preparation of a Health Risk Reduction and Cost
Analysis (HRRCA) document to be published for public comment at the
same time a rule is proposed. AMWA believes that this document is a key
public right-to-know provision of the Act. With a straightforward
analysis of risks and costs, the public will know the answer to a very
basic question, ``What am I getting for my money?''
So far, the cost and risk analyses, with the exception of that for
radon, have tended to be buried within a very long and complex
Regulatory Impact Analysis. Moreover, the analyses are not published
for comment in the Federal Register along with the proposed rule.
Rather, HRRCAs must be obtained either from the rule docket or accessed
via the Internet, and it is not clear that public comments are desired
or whether they will even be reviewed and considered by the Agency.
A key component of HRRCAs required by the Act is an analysis of the
``quantifiable and nonquantifiable health risk reduction benefits for
which there is a factual basis in the rulemaking record to conclude
that such benefits are likely to occur as the result of treatment to
comply with each (maximum contaminant) level'' (emphasis added). AMWA
is concerned that several of the analyses to date have tended to rely,
at least in part, on speculative (``what if'') analyses.
Additionally, the analyses stray from normal cost-benefit
practices. For example, EPA chooses to discount costs, but not
benefits. Thus the Agency compares apples to oranges, which obfuscates
whether the benefits of a rule justify the costs.
These are but a few of the problems that concern AMWA about how
Health Risk Reduction and Cost Analyses are being conducted under the
Safe Drinking Water Act. If these analyses are truly intended to inform
decision-makers, then they must be very clear in addressing actual
rather than speculative risk reduction benefits. And, if these analyses
are truly intended to inform the public about the benefits they may
receive for what they will pay, then the HRRCAs must be clear,
straightforward, and easy to read.
Comments on Specific Proposed Regulations
Arsenic Rule. In June, EPA proposed regulating arsenic at 5 parts
per billion (ppb), but will also be taking comment on 3, 10 and 20 ppb.
EPA is required under SDWA to promulgate a final rule by January 2001.
The 1996 Amendments also required that the National Academy of Sciences
(NAS) conduct a review of EPAs arsenic risk assessment. The NAS report
recommended that EPA revise the existing 50 ppb standard for arsenic
downward as quickly as possible but did not recommend a specific level.
The report also recommended that EPA conduct more studies of its
arsenic toxicity analysis and risk characterization, conduct additional
human studies, and identify markers of arsenic-induced cancers. The
arsenic standard is a very complex issue, and the proposal rule will
draw many valuable comments from stakeholders. Unfortunately, once the
comment period closes EPA must finalize the standard only a few months
later. We ask the subcommittee to consider extending this deadline by
six months to give EPA more time to evaluate comments.
In addition, the Science Advisory Boards Drinking Water Committee
was charged with reviewing the proposed rule for EPA. In a preliminary
draft report prepared in August, the committee suggested that EPA
consider setting the arsenic standard higher than the proposed level of
5 ppb. The committee noted that the available science might support a
standard in the range of 10 to 20 ppb.
Filter Backwash Rule. The Act also required EPA to issue a rule
governing filter backwash recycle practices by August 2000. The rule is
likely to be finalized in the next couple of months. The rule is
intended to address the concentration of contaminants in the drinking
water treatment process resulting from cleaning of water filter beds.
AMWA is concerned about the lack of scientific data that is available
to support this rule. In the preamble of the rule, EPA acknowledges
that there is a paucity of data available regarding the recycle
practices of filter backwash.
Radon Rule. EPA was required to finalize the Radon Rule by August
2000. Reportedly, the Radon Rule likely will be finalized in December .
Under the 1996 Amendments, Congress established the need for a
mitigation program to reduce radon levels in indoor air. It is
generally accepted that indoor air radon mitigation provides greater
risk reduction than other methods of removal. Therefore, EPA developed
a dual compliance regulatory approach: water systems may comply with an
alternative maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 4000 picoCuries per
liter (pCi/L) where the state, or the water system itself, operates an
indoor air radon mitigation program. And where no mitigation program
exists, water systems must either initiate one or comply with a primary
MCL of 300 pCi/L. This approach is intended to attract water systems to
participate in indoor air radon mitigation programs and thus achieve a
higher risk reduction.
AMWA endorses the concept of addressing radon through multimedia
programs that reduce indoor air risk. AMWA agrees that that indoor air
radon mitigation provides greater risk reduction than does the
treatment of drinking water. AMWA would like to see the Radon Rule
refocused on encouraging states to adopt the multimedia program option
and reducing the burden on water systems to develop their own indoor
air program or be forced to comply with the maximum contaminant level.
A recent report by the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN), which is
comprised of water suppliers, city officials, environmental
organizations, and state agencies, shows that drinking water agencies
spend roughly $13 billion per year on infrastructure to protect public
health. But according to the report, that amount is only about half of
what may be needed. The WIN report indicates that approximately $11
billion more per year is needed through 2019. EPA's recent ``gap''
analysis and a report by the American Water Works Association confirm
this overwhelming shortfall.
AMWA member agencies are exploring every avenue available to fund
this anticipated future need. The vast majority of large municipal
water systems currently fund 100 percent of their infrastructure as
well as 100 percent of all federally mandated treatment requirements.
Public Agencies have embraced public-private partnerships and private
investment where it makes sense from a local perspective. We have
adopted new efficiencies and streamlined our process. In short, we
attempt to run our agencies not only as public services, but as
AMWA is currently working with local governments, other water
supply associations, state groups as well as the environmental
community to assess the need and to develop appropriate funding
solutions. AMWA is committed to evaluating all possibilities for future
financing, and as we proceed, will keep the subcommittee apprised of
any financing options that impact the long-standing partnerships we
have had with the federal government.
Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE)
AMWA urges swift action on the part of the subcommittee and
Congress to pass legislation that significantly reduces or eliminates
the use of MTBE to prevent further water contamination, to assist water
systems where supplies are contaminated, and to support development of
treatment technologies to remove existing contamination.
Water systems in at least 31 states have detected MTBE in their
wells or surface sources. As you know, the primary sources of
contamination are leaking underground gasoline storage tanks, although
there is concern that air deposition is another source. Since MTBE is
very soluble in water and does not cling to soil well, it has a
tendency to migrate much more quickly in water than other components of
gasoline. MTBE renders drinking water unfit for human consumption due
to strong taste and odor levels, even at levels as low as 2 parts per
billion. Most consumers perceive drinking water with an unpleasant
taste or odor as being unhealthy, and in some cases the water may very
well be unsafe to drink. The bottom line is that consumers will not
tolerate MTBE in their water.
This concludes the association's testimony.
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you, Mr. Tippin.
STATEMENT OF ERIK D. OLSON
Mr. Olson. Thank you and good morning. I wanted to just
note we have several recent reminders of why the discussion
today is so important. Many of you may have read about the
Walkerton, Ontario waterborne disease outbreak that killed
several people earlier this year and the upState New York
outbreak that occurred from E. coli where a child was killed.
There have been several other recent outbreaks of
waterborne disease in the United States that serve as a
reminder that although we have made enormous progress over the
last century in drinking water protection, we still have a long
way to go, and all the recent reports that were cited earlier
today and other reports document that we have absolutely
enormous needs for infrastructure improvement.
EPA estimated a couple of years ago that it is going to
cost about $138 billion to upgrade our drinking water
infrastructure, and more recent reports by the water utilities
themselves, in coalition with others, suggested it is more like
half a trillion dollars to upgrade it for capital alone, and if
one considers operation and maintenance and capital and
financing it is more like a trillion dollars over the next 20
years that will have to be invested. That is an enormous
shortfall from where we are now, an enormous investment that
will be necessary.
We thankfully are in the midst of what often has been
called the third revolution in how water is provided in the
developed world. The first was during Roman times when we
started piping water. Around 100 years ago we started using
chlorine and treatment to remove the particles in our water,
and now we are on the cusp of an enormous change in how water
is treated and delivered to protect our water sources: Upgrade
how the water is treated, modernize the distribution systems,
these pipes, some of which--in this room we are getting water
from pipes that were in some cases built during the Lincoln
Ldministration. We will have to upgrade those pipes all over
the country. And then we are moving toward more public
involvement and information about drinking water. All of those
are very important improvements, and that is why some of the
burdens on States and local officials have increased, but we
think it is a wise and sound public health investment.
There are enormous challenges. Some of them specifically
have been mentioned, such as arsenic. We wanted to highlight
the fact that the National Academy of Sciences last year had a
consensus document that put to rest many of the arguments, in
fact, virtually all of the arguments that have been made
against making a much stricter standard. The consensus document
said that the current EPA standard presents about a one in a
hundred cancer risk. Just for the sake of comparison, that is
10,000 times higher cancer risk than Congress unanimously said
was the highest cancer risk that would be allowed in our food
from pesticides. It is an enormous risk. And even if you think
the National Academy of Sciences is off by ten or a
hundredfold, it is a much higher risk than EPA would ever allow
in any other environmental medium or in drinking water. It is
an issue that has to be addressed. We have procrastinated on it
now for 58 years. The standard was issued during World War II
and it hasn't been amended since then.
In addition, radon is a major issue. EPA has recently
proposed a regulation that will start addressing radon in our
tap water and allow States in a creative new program to
tradeoff radon that comes in from the basement, reducing those
risks, for reducing risks in drinking water. It is an
interesting approach. We think the rule has some holes in it
and it is a little loosey-goosey, but may improve public health
Recently, a landmark agreement earlier this month was
reached by all the groups at this table as well as EPA and
others to reduce the levels of microbial risk from
Cryptosporidium and disinfection by-products. That agreement
should be ratified later this month by all these groups and
hopefully we will see major improvements in health protection
over the next decade as a result of that agreement.
Other major rules include the groundwater rule, which EPA
will be completing shortly and recently proposed. We identify
many enormous challenges that are ahead in our written
testimony, but I just wanted to highlight a couple of them.
One of them is how in the world are we going to fund about
a half of trillion dollars in infrastructure improvements over
the next 20 years. Obviously we are not thinking that the
Federal Government is going to foot the bill for all of that,
but we need to have a national dialog on how we are going to
deal with that and how we are going to get the public involved
and excited about and interested in and concerned about this
issue and get them involved in helping them fund it.
In addition, we need to be talking about how polluters who
are causing some of the contamination will foot part of the
bill as well. We think, as is identified in our testimony in
more detail, there are several other important debates that
will be moving forward over the next several years, but really
this infrastructure improvement issue is going to have to
dominate the debate and we commend the committee for moving
forward in addressing some of these important issues.
[The prepared statement of Erik D. Olson follows:]
Prepared Statement of Erik D. Olson, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources
Good morning, I am Erik D. Olson, a Senior Attorney at the Natural
Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a national non-profit public interest
organization dedicated to protecting public health and the environment.
We have over 400,000 members nationwide. We appreciate the opportunity
to testify today on the implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Drinking water treatment improvements begun at the turn of the 20th
Century have advanced public health protection enormously, but much of
the nation's drinking water infrastructure now is aging and outdated.
We must modernize our water systems and safeguard the nation's water
supplies from new and emerging contaminants. While EPA has estimated
based on state figures that the costs of modernization will exceed $138
billion dollars, many in state and local government, in the water
industry, and public health and environmental communities believe the
true costs of this needed massive upgrade will be many times higher.
For example, a report published in March 2000 by a coalition of
state and local governments, the water industry, and water professional
trade associations called the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN)
estimated that building these costs would be far greater than previous
estimates. The WIN report found that building new and replacing old
drinking water facilities will cost $480 billion dollars (including
finance costs) over the next 20 years, and that about $1 trillion
dollars is needed for drinking water capital, financing, and operation
and maintenance over that period. The WIN investigators concluded that
there is a funding gap of about $15 billion per year for drinking water
infrastructure, operation, and maintenance.1
\1\ Water Infrastructure Network, Clean and Safe Water for the 21st
Century: A Renewed National Commitment to Water and Wastewater
Most of these expenses are expected to be necessary irrespective of
Safe Drinking Water Act regulatory requirements. Aging pipes in
distribution systems, antiquated water treatment plants, water
professionals' recognition of the need for infrastructure improvements,
public demands for improved water quality, taste, odor, and
reliability, growth, and other factors, all will drive this investment.
While most of these costs will be incurred with or without new EPA
regulations, it is clear that many improvements will be necessary in
water treatment and distribution systems in order to meet modern
demands for safer tap water. Major new public investments will be
needed to fund this important national priority, and to significant
research initiatives are necessary to support and guide this
It recently has been recognized that the United States and other
developed nations' drinking water suppliers have begun a ``Third
Revolution'' in drinking water provision. It is this revolution that
the WIN report has recognized will require greater financing. These
revolutions can be summarized as follows:
The ``First Revolution,'' occurred when water was captured,
stored, and channeled or piped for household drinking and other
uses. This important advance began in pre-biblical times in the
Middle East and was expanded and refined by the Roman Empire.
The ``Second Revolution,'' took place when coagulation,
sedimentation, filtration, and ultimately chlorination were
installed by many major water suppliers, beginning in the 19th
Century and with widespread adoption by the first World War.
This Second Revolution was triggered by the steady march
forward of medical science, the acceptance of the ``germ
theory'' of disease, and the leadership of public health
proponents such as John Snow who in 1849 linked the London
cholera outbreaks to water supplies. This resulted in enormous
public health benefits, and has hailed by the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of the ten greatest
triumphs of public health protection of the 20th Century.
The ``Third Revolution'' in drinking water provision now has
been launched by utilities in the U.S. and Europe. This
revolution is the culmination and synthesis of the ``multiple
barriers'' approach to preventing disease from drinking water
that had long been advocated by Abel Wolman and other 20th
Century water industry leaders. In essence, the Third
Revolution consists of a four-pronged approach to modern
drinking water protection:
(1) vigorous measures to prevent contamination of drinking water,
through source water protection;
(2) adoption of modern, highly effective, and broad-spectrum water
treatment technologies that can remove a wide array of
emerging contaminants simultaneously, such as membranes,
ultraviolet radiation disinfection, and granular activated
carbon with ozone disinfection;
(3) the modernization of aging, sometimes century- or more-old
water distribution systems that often contain lead, are a
frequent cause of main breaks, can harbor microbial growth,
and, according to CDC, are a significant cause of
waterborne disease outbreaks; and,
(4) The establishment and use of an efficient and open information
infrastructure and public involvement approach in which
utilities and their government regulators use advanced
methods to monitor, assess, communicate, and engage in a
dialogue with consumers regarding drinking water source
water threats, and tap water conditions, contaminants, and
Among the larger challenges now facing the water industry include:
The National Academy of Sciences, in a report issued in 1999,
recognized that arsenic in tap water poses a significant public health
risk in the United States, and that EPA's outdated arsenic in tap water
standard set in 1942 ``does not achieve EPA's goal for public health
protection and, therefore, requires downward revision as promptly as
possible.'' 2 The Academy concluded that drinking water
containing arsenic at the 50 parts per billion (ppb) level allowed by
the outdated current standard ``could easily'' pose a total cancer risk
of 1 in 100--about 100 times higher than EPA would ever allow for tap
water under other rules. For the sake of comparison, the cancer risk
allowed by this arsenic standard is about 10,000 times higher than EPA
may permit in food under the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, which
Congress passed unanimously. It also is a cancer risk 100 times greater
than EPA policy has allowed for drinking water contaminants for over
two decades. The Academy also found that there was insufficient basis
to find a threshold for arsenic carcinogenesis, and that there was no
credible evidence that arsenic was a necessary nutrient for humans
\2\ National Research Council, Arsenic in Drinking Water, p. 9
Moreover, the Academy discussed a litany of other adverse non-
cancer health effects from arsenic in tap water, including
cardiovascular effects, nervous system problems, skin lesions, and
possible reproductive and other effects. Several peer-reviewed,
published studies completed in the year since the Academy's report have
reinforced the conclusion that a much lower standard is needed for
arsenic in tap water. For example, a recently published study showed
increased cancer rates among Finns who consumed low levels of arsenic
(below 5 ppb). Even more recently, three studies in the July 2000 issue
of that National Institutes of Health's journal Environmental Health
Perspectives that found that arsenic is linked to skin and other health
effects even in populations that are well nourished, that arsenic is
linked to certain reproductive problems in exposed women, and that
cancer risks are increased among many people consuming tap water
EPA in June 2000 published a proposal to reduce allowable arsenic
levels from 50 ppb down to 5 ppb--a level that still presents a cancer
risk higher than the 1 in 10,000 cancer risk that EPA traditionally
allows in tap water. NRDC and many public health professionals and
organizations believe that EPA should set the standard at 3 ppb, the
level that EPA says is as close to the health goal (Maximum Contaminant
Level Goal) as is feasible, considering costs, and is
\3\ The underlying science supports an arsenic standard lower than
3ppb. EPA must consider that many Americans also have unavoidable
exposure to arsenic in their food, so relatively low levels of arsenic
in tap water can cause safety levels to be exceeded. A health-
protective tap water arsenic standard should allow a maximum lifetime
cancer risk no greater than that EPA has traditionally accepted (a
level presenting a lifetime cancer risk from 1 in 1,000,000 to at most
1 in 10,000 for vulnerable or highly exposed individuals). This would
require EPA to set a drinking water standard well below the current 50
ppb standard--in the range of 1 ppb. Limitations in the analytical
techniques widely used for measuring arsenic in water, however, would
likely necessitate a standard of 3 ppb, rather than a standard of 1
ppb, because reliably quantifying arsenic at levels below this would be
difficult using current standard lab equipment and practices. Based on
an extrapolation of NAS's risk estimates, even a relatively strict
arsenic standard of 3 ppb could pose a fatal cancer risk several times
higher risk than EPA has traditionally accepted in drinking water.
Radon in tap water poses significant cancer risks to over 40
million Americans. Another National Academy of Sciences report, issued
last year, found that radon is known to cause cancer, and concluded
that a multimedia mitigation strategy made the most sense in dealing
with the radon problem. The Academy found that while radon can be
present in tap water at levels posing substantial risks, on average
nationally the vast majority of radon risk comes from radon seepage
into homes from soils.
Congress enacted a provision in the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act
Amendments that provides that states or water systems may adopt
Multimedia Mitigation (MMM) programs for radon that focus on the
highest indoor radon risks. States and public water systems with
approved MMM programs need not assure compliance with the Maximum
Contaminant Level for radon in tap water, and can instead meet a less
stringent ``Alternative Maximum Contaminant Level'' (AMCL). The theory
is that states will provide greater public health benefits by reducing
overall indoor radon levels through a MMM program than would be
achievable using only the MCL for tap water. EPA's proposed rule for
implementing this provision, while in NRDC's view suffering from
certain problems of lack of clarity to assure that the MMM programs
actually will achieve the public health benefits billed, if improved
could prove an important step toward protecting public health from
3. Cryptosporidium, Other Microbial Risks, and Disinfection Byproducts
EPA has engaged in a lengthy, multi-stage process of negotiations
over the past eight years with the water industry, states, local
government, water treatment trade associations, public health groups,
and environmental organizations in an effort to tackle the complex
issue of microbial contaminants and disinfection byproducts. These
negotiations have wrestled with how to control the parasite
Cryptosporidium (which sickened over 400,000 people and killed over 100
in Milwaukee in 1993, and has lead to many smaller outbreaks since
then). In addition, the issue of how to deal with risks introduced or
exacerbated in the water distribution system was debated.
These negotiations have sought to produce an agreement that would
improve protection from the class of contaminants known as disinfection
byproducts, which are created when chemicals such as chlorine are used
to disinfect water, but create unwanted byproducts as a result of
chemical reactions between the disinfectant and organic matter in the
water, creating a potentially toxic soup of chemicals that have been
linked in both animal studies and epidemiological studies of people to
certain forms of cancer and to reproductive problems such as
miscarriages and certain birth defects.
It appears that after years of serious negotiations over the
``Stage 2'' disinfection byproduct rules, and the ``Long Term 2'' rule
for surface water treatment, early in September 2000 we finally
achieved a breakthrough in the negotiations, and an agreement has been
reached. Senior leadership of all parties must approve the agreement in
the coming week or so, but we are optimistic that the agreement will be
ratified. A proposed rule is anticipated in early or mid-2001.
4. Groundwater Rule.
EPA also was charged by Congress in the 1996 amendments with
issuing a rule requiring that groundwater supplied public water systems
disinfect their drinking water, unless such disinfection were to be
found unnecessary. EPA recently proposed a groundwater rule, upon which
the public comment period recently closed. NRDC believes that the
proposal includes several important measures that may improve public
health protection, but also has several fundamental flaws that will
need to be fixed if the rule is not to become bogged down at the state
\4\ Among the major flaws of the proposed rule are: (1)
Disinfection has become the last alternative. EPA has chosen to move
from a position of requiring disinfection of ground water systems, with
exceptions (where it can be shown that it is not necessary), to a
position of not disinfecting a ground water system until almost all
other options have been exhausted. (2) States do not have to set time
limits for ground water systems to fix problems. (3) Ground water
systems will not have to test for both pathogens and viruses. (4) EPA
does not require sanitary surveys to be done frequently enough to find
problems in time to correct them. (5) States may design Sanitary
Surveys that vary widely in quality and oversight. (6) States are not
required to have a cross connection control Program. (7) EPA does not
establish a baseline list of significant deficiencies which states may
exceed. (8) EPA should require public participation and Right To Know
throughout the Ground Water Rule (9) The SWAP Should Be More Tied Into
the Ground Water Rule. Though EPA advises States to take the SWAP
process into account, we feel that EPA could do much more to formally
tie source water assessments and the sanitary surveys together.
The 1996 SDWA Amendments should help to encourage better health
protection, and EPA should be commended for the generally open public
process used to date in implementing most of this law. There are
several other important challenges:
The Need for a National Dialogue on How to Fund the Massive
Funding Gap for Drinking Water Infrastructure Improvement and
Modernization. The massive shortfall in resources available for
water systems to upgrade, replace, and expand their
infrastructure is a problem that must be addressed. NRDC
believes there is a need for a serious national dialogue on how
this funding gap will be addressed. While certainly federal
funding will not itself plug this massive hole, the time has
come for a serious discussion of what the respective federal,
state, and local governmental roles are, and what role private
industry might play in this overhaul. We believe that there is
a need for federal leadership on this issue, and for
significantly increased federal resources to be dedicated to
this crucially important national need.
An Assured Funding Mechanism, Such as a Modest, Dedicated
Water Fee, Allocated to a Trust Fund Without Further
Appropriation, is Needed to Support Long-Term Drinking Water
Research and to Address High Priority Health Risks for Small
Systems. As part of a series of discussions with the water
industry and others, NRDC and many in the public interest
community (and frankly, some in the industry) have come to the
conclusion that Congress should enact a modest water fee that
would support a long-term guarantee of adequate research
funding for drinking water. The funds raised should be set
aside in a trust fund that is available without need for
further appropriations, so that the research agenda is not
buffeted by the ever-changing winds of the annual
appropriations process. In addition, we believe that those
funds should be made available for direct funding of the most
substantial public health threats posed by drinking water
systems, such as grants for emergency repairs, treatment, or
consolidation of small systems with serious health standard
A ``Polluter Pays'' Mechanism is Needed to assure that
consumers do not end up footing the bill for expensive
monitoring and treatment when polluters contaminate source
water. We recommend that the SDWA be amended (or that separate
legislation be enacted) to enable public water systems or
consumers to recover the full costs that source water pollution
imposes on them in the form of increased monitoring, treatment,
and other costs.
Appropriations Acts and a Court Decision Have Effectively
Eliminated the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) Set-
Aside for Health Effects Research, Undercutting Funding
Assurances. This Committee and the 1996 SDWA Amendments adopted
a provision in the DWSRF assuring a $10 million set-aside for
health effects research, SDWA Sec. 1453(n). The appropriations
committees, however, have included provisions purporting to
negate this set-aside in the last several appropriations acts.
Unfortunately, a court decision--reached with the support of
EPA--effectively found that the appropriations language
overrode the set-aside in the Act. Thus, this Committee's
effort to assure long-term funding of this research has been
nullified by subsequent Congressional action. This Committee
should fight for the full set-aside for this research.
A Forum for Open Public Research Planning and Priority Setting
is Necessary. EPA should formalize an open public process for
developing its drinking water research plans, similar to the
highly successful Microbial and Disinfection Byproducts
Council, but with additional public comment and openness
assured. This is a far more effective approach than the largely
closed-door process EPA used in planning its arsenic research,
Assuring More Effective Public Right-to-Know, Better Source
Protection, More Affordable Advanced Treatment Technologies,
Better Analytical Methods. EPA needs to conduct further
research and funding, and to take regulatory and other steps to
build better public understanding of tap water challenges. The
EPA right-to-know report rules issued in 1998 that required the
annual reports to be issued beginning in 1999, are a major step
forward. It is critical, however, that methods be developed to
improve public understanding of these complex issues. Other
important areas of research include: investigations into ways
in which source water protection can be made a more effective
tool for drinking water protection; research on how modern
treatment methods can be improved and costs decreased;
development of better, cheaper, and easier analytical methods;
and improved approaches to assuring small system compliance
through restructuring or treatment upgrades.
Research to Support Treatment, Occurrence, and Related Issues
for Microbes, Disinfection Byproducts, Groundwater, and
Distribution System Risks. New standards will be issued over
the next several years for many contaminants, yet EPA resources
for research on the availability of treatment and on occurrence
are inadequate. These rules will be determinative as to whether
the ``Third Revolution'' in drinking water protection--
involving true multiple barriers to contamination in the form
of source water protection, advanced ``leap frog'' treatment
technologies, and modern distribution system management--will
occur in the early 21st Century, or whether the nation's aging
and often outdated water supplies will continue to inadequately
address these emerging problems and to deteriorate. A stronger
research commitment is needed.
Compliance Problems that Continue to Plague the Drinking Water
Program. Widespread violations of the SDWA, and inadequate
state and EPA enforcement against even the most recalcitrant
violators continue to be a major problem. Improved data
collection and management, and a stronger commitment to
enforcement, are crucial to assist EPA, states, and the public
to address these issues. Compliance problems and data
collection and management failures have been catalogued in a
USA Today series published in October, 1998, in a recent EPA
audit discussed in a front page USA Today article in late 1999,
and in EPA's own 1998 and 1999 Annual Compliance Reports. The
EPA drinking water program and states need to upgrade their
management systems and programs. Routine audits of federally-
funded state programs are a crucial part of this effort. The
new SDWA small system viability provisions could begin to
reduce these problems, but substantial additional resources and
research are needed to assure that these programs bear fruit.
Additionally, small system technical assistance should be
granted on a competitive basis, based upon the best available
research, so that these assistance providers demonstrate that
they can deliver accurate technical assistance to small systems
in a cost-efficient manner. We oppose ``earmarked'' assistance
funding that is non-competitive, as it often fails to allocate
resources so as to maximize health benefits.
Improved Data Management, Reporting, and A Comprehensive
National Contaminant Occurrence Database. EPA must work with
states and the public to develop a fully integrated and fully
automated joint data management system for the drinking water
program. Included in this system should be accurate, reliable
and real-time compliance, water quality, enforcement, and other
key information. In addition, an effective National Contaminant
Occurrence Database (NCOD) is needed that will require
compatible data systems across states, electronic data
reporting to EPA by states and testing labs, and sufficient
will to ensure that national contaminant reporting is complete
and timely. A well-organized NCOD will provide an essential
national right-to-know counterpart to the consumer confidence
or ``right to know'' reports that water utilities provide
directly to their customers.
Better Integration of Clean Water Act and SDWA Programs. While
modest progress and much discussion have occurred in the effort
to better integrate the Clean Water Act and SDWA programs, in
fact we have a long way to go at the state and federal levels.
It is an unfortunate historical and jurisdictional byproduct
that hampers full integration of these programs and impedes
progress. For example, EPA's source water assessments and
protection programs, filtration avoidance programs, the
groundwater rule, wellhead protection programs, sole source
aquifer programs, and UIC programs under the SDWA, need to be
better integrated with the CWA Sec. Sec. 319, 305(b), and Total
Maximum Daily Load programs have developed largely independent
of each other. The Unified Watershed Assessment effort is
beginning to make some headway in integrating these diverse
programs, but a more aggressive effort would be helpful.
Meaningful Source Water Protection Authority. Public water
systems, states, EPA, and the public need to have the ability
to protect, through regulatory mechanisms or other mechanisms
as necessary, source waters. The 1996 SDWA Amendments largely
punted on this issue, but creeping development and pollution
are contaminating many source waters; strong legal authorities
to prevent such contamination are needed.
Better Leveraging of Other Federal Agency Resources. The
federal government has a wealth of expertise and resources
directly relevant to EPA's drinking water program that should
be better integrated into EPA's efforts. For example, the
Centers for Disease Control, Agency for Toxic Substances
Disease Registry, and many of the institutes at the National
Institutes of Health, including the National Cancer Institute,
the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institute of
Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and many other institutes
and agencies conduct research of which EPA often is unaware. A
better program is urgently needed to assure more information
sharing and collaboration among the federal agencies. Some
successful examples of such collaboration can be noted--such as
the waterborne disease estimation research being jointly
spearheaded by EPA and CDC, and the joint work on disinfection
byproducts by EPA, ATSDR, and NTP. Perhaps more often, however,
there is little or no collaboration among many of the agencies
in priority setting and in conducting research. The lack of
coordination can result in serious lost opportunities, and
potentially in duplication of effort.
Programs to Protect Consumers of Small Systems and Private
Wells. The United States may be moving towards a two-tiered
water supply: higher quality water for consumers in larger
cities, and lower quality water in small town and rural
America. America's small water systems are often having
significant difficulty complying with EPA's basic health
standards, and as additional rules (such as arsenic and the
groundwater rules) are issued, these difficulties will only
increase. There is a need to develop a stronger program to
assist and fund the restructuring, technical assistance,
regionalization, consolidation, package treatment technology,
and other approaches that will have to be adopted to assure
that small water system customers receive safe and affordable
drinking water. There also are 30 to 40 million Americans who
get their water primarily from private wells not covered by the
SDWA at all. Monitoring and protection of the quality of water
in these wells is often spotty to nonexistent. A national
dialogue is needed to discuss how these tens of millions of
Americans' health can be better protected from contamination of
these often highly vulnerable supplies.
In conclusion, NRDC strongly believes that EPA's implementation of
the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act is beginning to show
signs of achieving substantial public health gains. Some of the most
knotty, difficult issues that have faced EPA and the nation's drinking
water supplies for the past quarter century since the original 1974
SDWA was passed, and in many cases for even longer than that, are now
being squarely addressed. This process will not be simple, nor will it
be cheap. But this effort is necessary to protect public health and to
achieve public demands for a reliable supply of safe, good-tasting tap
water for all Americans. A vigorous and well-funded EPA research and
regulatory effort is crucial to the long-term success of the drinking
water program and the nation's tap water safety. Only a long-term
stable source of adequate funding will assure that this is achieved.
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you very much, Mr. Olson.
STATEMENT OF TERRY L. GLORIOD
Mr. Gloriod. Good morning, Mr. Chairman. My name is Terry
Gloriod. I am the President of Illinois-American Water Company,
an investor-owned community water system serving a population
of about 760,000 people in Illinois. I am also the Chairman-
Elect of the Government Relations Committee of the National
Association of Water Companies, NAWC, a nonprofit trade
association that exclusively represents the Nation's private
and investor-owned drinking water industry. I am offering
testimony today on behalf of NAWC's membership, nearly 300
companies in 43 States that provide safe, reliable drinking
water to over 23 million Americans every day.
Areas of concern that we have addressed in our written
testimony include the proposed radon rule, the proposed arsenic
rule, MTBE contamination of drinking water sources,
implementation of the drinking water SRF by some States and
drinking water infrastructure needs. I am going to limit my
oral remarks today to these last two subjects.
On State revolving loan funds, when NAWC testified before
this subcommittee in October 1998 we observed that 17 States
had declared privately owned drinking water systems to be
ineligible for drinking water SRF assistance through their
constitution's statute or official policies. This unfortunate
consequence is a clear and in many cases deliberate violation
of congressional intent that SRF loans should benefit customers
of all public water systems regardless of ownership. In fact,
this intent was made explicit recently in a letter to EPA from
House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley and Appropriations
Subcommittee Chairman James Walsh, who stated, ``We believe it
is clear that Congress intended such financial assistance to be
available to all community water systems, including both
publically and privately owned systems.''
Unfortunately, the most recent data from EPA reveals that
23 months later the numbers of States ignoring congressional
intent has remained at 17. EPA's State-by-State allocation of
SRF funding is based on infrastructure needs surveys that
include the needs of all utilities regardless of ownership.
Those 17 noncompliant States are accepting Federal funds based
in part on the needs of privately owned utilities in their
States while refusing to allow those same utilities to apply
for SRF assistance. Plainly put, this is discriminatory, not
against the company but also against their customers, both of
whom pay taxes that make these funds available in the first
We have urged EPA to base its SRF allocations on the needs
of those customers that the States are actually willing to
help. The funds forfeited by those States that refuse to comply
would be reallocated to those who do.
Mr. Chairman, we very much appreciate your interest and
support regarding this issue and that of Chairman Bliley.
On drinking water infrastructure, the 1997 EPA report
estimated that the drinking water industry must invest $138
billion over the next 20 years to replace failing
infrastructure. At that time, this amount actually exceeded
EPA's total estimate of existing water industry assets. A more
recent analysis by the American Water Works Association
estimate total infrastructure needs to be $385 billion. When
waste water needs are added, the number more than doubles.
The private sector stands willing and able to help with
these infrastructure financing challenges. Creative
partnerships should be encouraged and pursued so that
municipalities can tap and pursue the private capital markets.
If such partnerships were fully pursued, many cities and towns
all over the country could successfully address many of their
infrastructure financing shortfalls.
Some have responded to this challenge by calling upon
Congress to consider massive Federal grant or trust fund
programs. NAWC believes such a call at best to be premature.
NAWC believes that the supply and delivery of potable water
should be cost effective and should pay for itself, as is the
case for electric, gas and telecommunications utilities.
Consequently we need to find solutions that will assure that
water utilities are economically viable in the future without
In summary, if it is demonstrated that Federal assistance
is warranted, NAWC would support narrowly targeted solutions
that are economically efficient and equitable, include all
utilities regardless of size and ownership, support innovation,
assure that utilities are self-supporting over the long term
and provide special assistance in economically depressed areas
based on consumer needs.
Mr. Chairman, we appreciate the leadership role that you
and Congressman Brown have taken to address drinking water
infrastructure problems, and we also appreciate the concern
that you have expressed regarding the need for cost effective
solutions. These are long-term challenges and we look forward
to working with this committee to achieve long-term solutions
that will allow the drinking water industry to stand on its own
two feet. We thank you very much for the opportunity to be here
today, and we will answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Terry L. Gloriod follows:]
Prepared Statement of Terry L. Gloriod, President, Illinois-American
Good morning, Mr. Chairman. My name is Terry L. Gloriod. I am the
President of Illinois-American Water Company, an investor-owned
community water system serving a population of 760,000 throughout
Illinois. I am also the Chairman-Elect of the Government Relations
Committee of the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), a non-
profit trade association that exclusively represents the nation's
private and investor-owned drinking water industry. I am offering this
testimony on behalf of NAWC's membership--nearly 300 companies in 43
states--that provides safe, reliable drinking water to over 23 million
Americans every day.
Mr. Chairman, NAWC commends you and your Subcommittee for
conducting these oversight hearings on the implementation of the 1996
Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the second such
hearings by your Subcommittee since the Amendments were enacted. With
its emphasis on public participation and right to know, and the
requirements for sound science and cost-benefit analysis in the
regulatory process, the 1996 Act represents a new paradigm for
environmental legislation of which this Committee and Congress can be
Although our statement expresses some concerns over current and
future issues regarding the Act and the drinking water industry, NAWC
believes that overall EPA has made a good faith effort to comply with
the letter and spirit of the Act. In particular we wish to commend EPA
for its timely implementation of the Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR)
rule; its efforts to seek increased funding for scientific research
through the FY 2001 appropriations process; its positive response to
complaints about its SDWIS compliance database (although much still
needs to be done); its efforts to implement the new Drinking Water
State Revolving Loan Fund (DW-SRF) in an equitable manner; and the
recently completed successful negotiations by the Stage 2 Microbial/
Disinfection Byproducts Federal Advisory Committee.
Areas of concern that we wish to address today include the proposed
radon rule, the proposed arsenic rule, MTBE contamination of drinking
water sources, inequitable implementation of the DW-SRF by some states,
and drinking water infrastructure needs.
EPA'S PROPOSED RADON RULE
NAWC does not believe that EPA's proposed MCL of 300 pCi/L, or any
level below 1000 pCi/L, can be justified by cost-benefit analysis,
especially for small companies. NAWC's California chapter, the
California Water Association, has prepared a statement that documents
in detail the deficiencies of EPA's cost estimates, and we would like
to submit CWA's statement for the record of this hearing.
The cost differences between compliance with the proposed
alternative MCL (AMCL) of 4000 pCi/L and 300 pCl/L can be huge. NAWC's
largest company, American Water Works Company, estimates capital costs
of $1.3 million for a treatment level of 4000 pCi/L compared with $134
million for a treatment level of 300 pCi/L, a 100-fold difference.
NAWC supports state-sponsored Multimedia Mitigation (MMM) programs
as the most cost-effective way to achieve substantial health benefits
through reduction in exposure to radon in indoor air. Furthermore, we
believe that the prospect of water systems implementing local MMM
programs in the absence of state programs is unrealistic. It is highly
doubtful that the nation's public water systems, especially small
systems, will have sufficient resources to achieve the goals of
multimedia mitigation by themselves without state assistance. Tracking
new home construction and remedial venting of existing homes is far
removed from the chartered objectives of community water systems, not
to mention the added burdens that would be placed on water ratepayers.
In summary, NAWC believes that nationwide implementation of
effective state MMM programs is essential for the Radon Rule to achieve
its intended goals. Otherwise systems will be faced with the very
unattractive alternatives of implementing local MMM programs or meeting
a very costly MCL which cannot be justified by cost-benefit analysis.
We urge Congress to consider legislation that would place the
requirements of the MMM program in EPA's air program where it belongs
and to provide states with sufficient resources to implement it.
Effective MMM programs implemented in every state plus a drinking water
AMCL (or MCL) of 4000 pCi/L will provide far greater public health
benefits at a more reasonable cost than a drinking water MCL of 300
pCi/L standing alone.
EPA'S PROPOSED ARSENIC RULE
NAWC agrees with the National Academy of Science that the current
arsenic standard of 50 ppb needs to be revised in accordance with the
provisions of the 1996 SDWA Amendments. However we are not convinced
that EPA's proposed standard of 5 ppb, announced June 22, 2000, can be
Earlier this year, in a preliminary draft report, the Drinking
Water Committee of EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) concluded
that the available scientific evidence on health effects could
justify a standard of 10 ppb or even 20 ppb.
The World Health Organization has an arsenic standard for
drinking water of 10 ppb.
According to the AWWA Research Foundation, the cost of
compliance with a standard of 5 ppb is 2\1/2\ times that of
compliance with a standard of 10 ppb.
NAWC urges EPA to reconsider the available body of scientific
evidence and to consider a final standard of no less than 10 ppb.
MTBE CONTAMINATION OF DRINKING WATER SOURCES
The use of Methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) as an oxygen additive
in reformulated gasoline has created a significant and unacceptable
risk to drinking water surface and groundwater sources in many areas
throughout the United States. Recently EPA recommended that Congress
amend the Clean Air Act to significantly reduce or eliminate the use of
MTBE as a fuel additive.
Earlier this year NAWC joined three other drinking water
Associations in urging Congress promptly to consider legislation that
Amend the Clean Air Act to significantly reduce or eliminate
the use of MTBE in gasoline.
Ensure that air quality gains are not diminished as MTBE use
Require adequate research to be conducted on any replacement
fuel additive to ensure that such a replacement will not
contaminate drinking water sources.
Provide assistance to public water systems that have MTBE
contaminated sources for treatment or for alternative water
We urge Congress to take swift action to resolve this threat to our
nation's drinking water supplies in accordance with these principles.
STATE REVOLVING LOAN FUNDS
When NAWC testified before this Subcommittee in October, 1998, we
observed that 17 states had declared privately owned drinking water
systems to be ineligible for DW-SRF assistance through their
constitutions, statutes or official policies. This unfortunate
consequence is a clear, and in many cases deliberate, violation of
Congressional intent that SRF loans should benefit customers of all
public water systems, regardless of ownership. In fact, this intent was
made explicit recently in a letter to EPA from House Commerce Committee
Chairman Tom Bliley and Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman James
Walsh who stated, ``We believe it is clear that Congress intended such
financial assistance to be available to all community water systems,
including both publicly and privately owned systems.'' Unfortunately,
the most recent data from EPA reveals that, 23 months later, the
numbers of states ignoring Congressional intent has remained at 17.
EPA's state-by-state allocation of SRF funding is based on
infrastructure needs surveys that include the needs of all utilities
regardless of ownership. Those 17 non-complying states are accepting
federal funds based in part on the needs of privately owned utilities
in their states while refusing to allow those same utilities to apply
for SRF assistance. Plainly put, this is discriminatory--not just
against the companies but also against their customers, both of whom
pay the taxes that make these funds available in the first place.
Some argue that privately owned companies, even those serving the
public, should not receive federal assistance--not even loans. Congress
considered that argument in 1996, and concluded that regulation by
state public utility commissions would assure that the interest savings
from SRF loans would benefit customers--not company shareholders. In
fact the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners
(NARUC) has joined us in criticizing the failure of these states to
comply with Congressional intent.
We have urged EPA to base its SRF allocations on the needs of those
customers that the states are actually willing to help. The funds
forfeited by those states that refuse to comply would be reallocated to
those who do.
In a letter dated June 9, 2000, responding to Chairman Bliley's
letter, EPA Assistant Administrator J. Charles Fox acknowledged that
EPA has the necessary authority ``to base the allotment formula on
needs that each state determines are eligible . . .'' However EPA is
concerned that such reallocation would have little or no impact in some
states. We share those concerns, but they should not keep EPA from
taking a reasonable first step that would help get SRF resources to all
systems and customers that Congress intended to help.
Mr. Fox also describes in his letter several initiatives EPA has
undertaken ``to increase the comfort level of states in handling
privately-owned systems.'' These are important efforts for which EPA
should be commended.
Mr. Chairman, we very much appreciate your interest and support
regarding this issue, and that of Chairman Bliley.
DRINKING WATER INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS
A 1997 EPA report estimated that the drinking water industry must
invest $138 billion over the next 20 years to replace failing
infrastructure. At that time, this amount actually exceeded EPA's total
estimate of existing water industry assets. A recent analysis by the
American Water Works Association estimated total infrastructure needs
to be $385 billion. When wastewater needs are added, that number more
The private sector stands willing and able to help with these
infrastructure financing challenges. Creative partnerships should be
encouraged and pursued so that municipalities can tap and pursue the
private capital markets. If such partnerships were fully pursued, many
cities and towns all across the country could successfully address many
of their infrastructure financing shortfalls.
However, some have responded to this challenge by calling upon
Congress to consider massive federal grant or trust fund programs. NAWC
believes such a call to be, at best, premature. In addition, if the
water industry cannot meet the infrastructure challenge substantially
on our own over the long run, we will have admitted that our utility
models are not self-sustaining. In other words, NAWC believes that the
supply and delivery of potable water should be cost effective and
should pay for itself as is the case with the electric, gas and
telecommunication utilities. Consequently, we need to find solutions
that will assure that water utilities are economically viable in the
future, without subsidy.
In summary, if it is demonstrated that Federal assistance is
warranted, NAWC will be prepared to support narrowly targeted solutions
Are economically efficient and equitable.
Include all water utilities regardless of size or ownership.
Assure that utilities are self-supporting over the long term.
Provide special assistance in economically depressed areas
based on consumer needs.
Mr. Chairman, we appreciate the leadership role that you and
Congressman Brown have taken to address drinking water infrastructure
problems, and we also appreciate the concern that you have expressed
regarding the need for cost-effective solutions. These are long-term
challenges, and we look forward to working with this Committee to
achieve long-term solutions that will allow the drinking water industry
to stand on its own two feet.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, NAWC very much appreciates this
opportunity to present our views, and I would be happy to respond to
any questions.[The statement of the California Water Association on the
proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation for Radon retained
in subcommittee files.]
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you very much, Mr. Gloriod.
I want to apologize to Mr. Tippin. I wanted to be here,
David, to introduce you. Anyhow, other appointments were made.
People come down here and we have to break loose.
Mr. Brown. He was real good, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Bilirakis. Was he really good?
Mr. Brown. It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, a whole lot of
people from Tampa show up at these.
Mr. Bilirakis. Not too many as a matter of fact.
I would ask you, Mr. Tippin, you are responsible for
running a large metropolitan water system. As was testified to
earlier, about 90 percent of water systems out there are small
water systems. So maybe you could tell us very briefly how the
large water system is different from those smaller systems. In
other words, how the problems of a large system are different
than those of smaller water systems.
Mr. Tippin. I think the larger systems are more visible.
Mr. Bilirakis. They are----
Mr. Tippin. More visible to the media and everyone. We are
probably more restrictive in what--I know my utility is--as in
what we will allow as far as water quality is concerned. We try
to hire the experts in not only the United States, but in the
world as far as water quality is concerned, whether they be on
staff or as a consultant to us, to address our problems that we
Like most of the panelists up here who represent utilities,
we are a mature water utility. That means our infrastructure is
aging. We have pipe--compared to Philadelphia, we are a baby,
but we have pipe in our system which is in operation right
now--I hope it hasn't broken--over 100 years old. We have pipe
newer than that. Our problem is funding some of the
infrastructure which was put in 50, 75 years ago which is
failing and causing water quality problems. Water quality
doesn't stop at the treatment plant. Water quality stops at the
tap. But there is a big gap in there. In our case we have 2100
miles of water mains which we are responsible for, and a lot of
that is aging, very old, and about 25 percent of our capital
improvement budget right now is dedicated strictly to replacing
Mr. Bilirakis. Of course there are an awful lot of the
small water systems that also have the same problems, Tarpon
Mr. Tippin. They have the same problems.
Mr. Bilirakis. They are a small water system, obviously,
and I think their piping has been in there.
Mr. Tippin. Yes. One of the problems I think for a smaller
system is financing for the smaller systems. They don't have
the financing that the larger systems do have, and that is a
major problem for them. And I know in Florida, we help each
other out. The large systems help the small systems and vice
versa. We are in it all together and we try to be one family as
far as helping out the small systems. But some of the problems
can be really aggravated in the small systems when--such as the
technical staff--of which they aren't privy to as much as some
of the larger systems are.
Mr. Bilirakis. Let's get into a specific, Mr. Gloriod, Mr.
Tippin, whatever; for instance, EPA's proposed radon rule based
on provisions contained in the 1996 amendments. Mr. Gloriod
cited the broad concerns of your association and other
associations about this rule. So I would ask you, can you give
us a real world example of how you believe the rule could
affect a small drinking water system? Because again it goes
back to, how many times have I said it, we can change the
standards, and I am not saying they should not be changed or
they should not be tightened or anything of that nature. What I
am saying is that if we can't put them into effect, then what
the hell good are they?
Go ahead, sir.
Mr. Gloriod. I think the general effects on small systems
and on large systems are not very much different. But as Mr.
Tippin has said, large systems generally have the capacity, if
you will, to get the resources together to deal with the
regulatory issues. The case of radon is particularly complex in
that the exposure, the public health problem really isn't just
from drinking water. It is a naturally occurring contaminant,
and we really believe that the public health improvement
requires more than just looking at the water. But just looking
at the water can cause the need for treatment plants for radon
removal. A small system may not have the land available to
build such plants. That may be true with large systems as well.
But the problem is more complex than just water. The issue
comes down to costs and what customers can afford to pay as
Mr. Bilirakis. Well, thank you. I would ask all of you, my
time has expired, if you have any suggestions, and EPA is in
the room and hopefully I know they are taking notes on some of
the things you have said, but if you have any suggestions on
changes that may be made, real world changes that can be made
to the--you know, we are still in the process of implementing
the 1996 amendments. It is unlikely that we are going to
substantially change the 1996 law in the near future because
authorization does not expire until 2003. But in the interim we
may be able to make some technical or targeted changes.
We had a press conference downstairs. Some of you were
there. We have this caucus that has been created here, over 70
members. We feel we have some clout. Give us some real world
practical type things that you feel can be helpful as far as
getting States to implement what we intend to have them
Mr. Brown. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like each of you, starting with Mr. Gloriod, to go
on record for you and your organization on your position on the
rider in the House, the HUD/VA bill that directs EPA to seesaw
actions relative to the enforcement of the current, forgetting
the stricter standards that Mr. Olson and others talked about,
of the current arsenic drinking water standards. It came to a
vote on the House floor. The rider was not stripped. Would you
give us your position ?
Mr. Gloriod. NAWC believes the current standard is not
protective of public health and should be lower. We do not have
a problem with compliance with the current standard of 50 at
Mr. Brown. So you support the enforcement of current and
want it stronger?
Mr. Gloriod. Yes.
Mr. Brown. Mr. Olson.
Mr. Olson. We oppose the rider and believe the standard
should be much stricter than it currently is.
Mr. Brown. Mr. Tippin.
Mr. Tippin. This is new and we have no comment on it at
Mr. Brown. What was the first part of your answer?
Mr. Tippin. This is new and we do not have an answer.
Mr. Brown. Okay. Mr. Neukrug.
Mr. Neukrug. The AWWA feels very strongly that EPA should
be given a full 12 months to review the 270 comments that have
come in so far.
Mr. Brown. I am talking about the rider on the arsenic
Mr. Neukrug. Yes. We believe that they should be given the
full 12 months to review that and that it should--that the
arsenic rider, at this point we are hoping it doesn't have to
come to anything like that.
Mr. Brown. That the rider, you believe that the current
standard should be enforced then?
Mr. Neukrug. The current standard, at least the current
standard should be enforced.
Mr. Brown. Is that what you are saying?
Mr. Neukrug. For arsenic 50, yes.
Mr. Brown. Mr. Rutherford.
Mr. Rutherford. I am not familiar with this rider, until
you mentioned it this morning at the press conference. But I
think the consensus is clear that the current level of 50 is
inadequately protective of public health and it should be
lowered. I don't have an opinion on what that actual level
Mr. Brown. Lowered means strengthened?
Mr. Rutherford. Yes, strengthened.
Mr. Brown. Mr. Rutherford, 2 years ago Mr. Jerry
Beaverstein was sitting in your chair representing the
Association of State Drinking Water Administrators. At that
hearing I asked him back in October 1998 to inform us of the
percentage of local source water assessment programs under
section 1453 that have actually progressed to the point where
the boundaries of the assessment areas are delineated and the
origin of the contaminants are fully identified. He responded
that progress had not been all that impressive. It had been
rather woeful, that he expected every system to be done by
2001. That was 2 years ago that he said that.
Where do we stand today in source water delineation and
identification of contaminants?
Mr. Rutherford. Mr. Brown, I am not prepared to address
that on a national level but I could get that information for
you as soon as possible. In my State at least we are making
progress. I don't think we are moving as fast as we would like
due to the constraints of obtaining resources, but we do have
the delineations complete, at least for our community, and non-
transient systems are making progress. I am recruiting staff
right now to continue with that work.
[The following was received for the record:]
Mr. Brown. This subcommittee would like that information,
if you would, and as you are representing the Association of
Administrators, if you could give us some update on the
progress that Mr. Beaverstein indicated would be made by next
Another question. You indicated that Congress and EPA need
to ensure that States have the needed tools, the staff, the
resources to work more directly and work closely with these
water systems. What seems to be missing is the role that the
States themselves can play to supplement funding and remove the
various constraints on increased staff, resources that the GAO
testified about on the first panel this morning.
Could you address what efforts you and your colleagues in
other States are making at the State level?
Mr. Rutherford. As I am sure you are aware, there are a
number of competing priorities at the State level. We have
analyzed the needs by the drinking water programs and have
pursued obtaining increased State resources. In some cases,
there has been some level of success.
It is a challenge from all counts in order to get
sufficient staff, however.
Mr. Brown. Thank you.
Mr. Bryant [presiding]. Thank you. I have obviously assumed
the Chair. I think it is my turn to question from the other
side of the aisle. I will go ahead, with Mr. Green's
indulgence, and come to him after I have finished.
Mr. Green. Sure.
Mr. Bryant. Mr. Neukrug, on behalf of many who were in
Philadelphia, I want to thank your great city for the
hospitality you showed to us.
Mr. Neukrug. I hope you drank the water there.
Mr. Bryant. I guess I did. I am still surviving. After Mr.
Bilbray's comments, I have had three glasses of water this
morning, and I don't know what to do. I think we will all be
Mr. Rutherford, I have a question for you. You were here
during the first panel's testimony. I want to contrast your
statement with that of Assistant Administrator Fox.
Mr. Fox assured us that the agency has worked closely with
the States and a range of other stakeholders to develop strong
and practical new drinking water standards within tight
timeframes established by SDWA amendments. My question is, I
expect you would agree to the tight timeframe on the 1996
amendments. Given your testimony on the rule development and
implementation complexities, would you agree that the EPA's
rules have been practical?
Mr. Rutherford. The agency has a difficult task in the
promulgations that are being developed since the 1996
amendments. I think these are the really challenging ones and
hard to address appropriately.
I would not--if I were proposing them, I would certainly
simplify some of the approaches to them, to the degree that I
could. My remarks were attempting to focus on the challenges of
getting the attention of very small systems and then trying to
help them determine what to do.
The degree to which they can be simplified, and
particularly from my perspective that the burdens on the State
should be as simple as possible--I would not agree that we have
reached that point.
Mr. Bryant. Mr. Tippin, a question for you.
The EPA indicates that it has involved stakeholders at
every stage of the process in its rulemakings under the 1996
amendments. If this is the case, why do you have so many
complaints and issues with the various actions that the agency
has taken or failed to take?
Mr. Tippin. We have been involved in some of the issues,
and I think our concern is with the sound science part. I
mentioned earlier today on the peer review for chloroform and
the recommended zero, I think the Scientific Advisory Board or
one of the experts recommended 300 parts per billion.
I think something needs to be changed in that the Safe
Drinking Water Act and the 1996 amendments have a non-
backsliding rule that you cannot do that. It was set at a goal
of zero. You cannot backslide into something, really, which is
I don't know what EPA can do about that, but I think, as we
go along through implementing the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act
Amendments and regulating the contaminants and as we learn more
from the science, I think maybe that should be changed and
Mr. Bryant. For the remaining three panelists that I have
not asked questions to, I would like, if you have an opinion on
this, and I think some of you do on the drinking water research
funding that we have, and some of you may be familiar with it
more so than others, but if the other three of you, beginning
with you, Mr. Neukrug, if you would comment on the adequacy of
safe drinking water research.
Mr. Neukrug. I think research is really the key to all of
this. I have a couple of quotes here. One is by Joe Cotruvo,
who used to work with the EPA in the 1980's, who is still
seeing the same issues come forward year after year in terms of
safe drinking water. He says, ``When will we know we have
answered the question?''
I think that is really key here. No matter what we do, no
matter where the arsenic level ends up, whether it is 2, 5, 10,
20, or remains at 50, at what point are we all going to be able
to sit around the room and say, okay, the water is safe to
I am not seeing that, where this game ends and when we all
will feel comfortable that the water quality is safe. I think
research is what is needed in order to get us to that point.
Mr. Bryant. Good point.
Mr. Olson. I just wanted to bring to your attention a
couple of issues.
This committee set aside $10 million a year in the State
Revolving Fund for drinking water health effects research as a
result of a court decision and an effort to try to get that
money set aside. Unfortunately, that money is not available, so
that money that we thought was going to be there is not there.
So, clearly, there is a shortfall, in our view, in funding for
health effects and other research.
We think EPA could do a better job also of reaching out to
NIH and CDC and some of the other Federal family to leverage
some of the resources. We have discussed that in our written
Mr. Bryant. Mr. Gloriod?
Mr. Gloriod. I would like to echo and agree with the
comments of my colleagues.
Also, I am a member of the American Water Works Association
Research Foundation, and we try to focus the research dollars
that are available from utilities in conjunction with those
that might come our way from Federal sources to help drive the
research, if you will, in a way that prioritizes the answers
that are of most regulatory importance.
One of the difficulties we face is timing in that the
questions are asked and we find ourselves on a regulatory time
track that the research cannot necessarily keep up with.
So we really need, I guess, a more strategic long-range
research plan that gets us pointed toward finding answers
before we are on a scheduled regulatory process.
Mr. Bryant. Very good.
Mr. Green. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am sorry our chairman
is not here, because our first panel of EPA representatives--I
noticed also three of our witnesses on the second panel--
actually discussed MTBE, so, hopefully, I was not off the
reservation, so to speak, in asking.
My concern is that what we have seen for a number of years
is that we have a knee-jerk reaction on the Federal and
sometimes at the State level, but at least on the State level
we can respond quicker. But on the Federal level we all of a
sudden go from one headline to the next and do not realize the
cost of unintended consequences.
Hopefully our regulators, whether it be EPA or our State
level, would realize that when they either promote a substance,
like we did with MTBE in the early 1990's, and now start to ban
it, let us see what the next step would be.
So that is my concern. I wish we had EPA here on a regular
monthly basis so we could get these questions answered. That is
not always available.
Let me ask Mr. Neukrug a question. He mentioned a problem
in the city of Santa Monica of having MTBE. We are aware of
that from our earlier hearings. I assume the 600 parts per
billion was a result of a leaky underground storage tank or
Mr. Neukrug. I could not give you that answer.
Mr. Roberson. Most of it, yes.
Mr. Green. Do you have any more recent data from the U.S.
Geological Survey or the EPA on the remediation efforts in
California, particularly Santa Monica, since that is where I
stayed? We were out there for our convention, and I drank the
water, just like Mr. Bryant did in Philadelphia. It did not
smell any worse than anywhere else.
Are there any remedial efforts in California? Can you tell
the subcommittee whether the problem is getting better or
Mr. Neukrug. Do we have any data on that?
Mr. Roberson. It is about the same. They closed the wells
that are contaminated.
Mr. Green. Do you know whether they have actually tried to
deal with the leaky storage tank areas?
Mr. Roberson. Yes. We are having trouble getting a
settlement with the oil companies involved.
Mr. Bryant. I was going to recommend we get that.
Sir, would you identify yourself for the record?
Mr. Roberson. I am Alan Roberson, a representative with the
American Water Association, and have been working closely with
the city of Santa Monica.
Mr. Green. So it is about the same in the Santa Monica area
or the California area?
Maybe you heard my information earlier to Mr. Fox. We have
had a problem with regard to MTBE, particularly because of an
explosion of a pipe across one of our water supplies for north
Texas. The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission had
collected 26,000 samples from nearly 6,500 entry points to
drinking water distribution centers. MTBE was detected in 13 of
those. Furthermore, the mean results of these detections is 2.6
parts per billion.
Do you or anyone on the panel have any comments? That is
the information from our Texas agency, as compared to the
Mr. Neukrug. As we saw from the last answer I just gave you
through Alan Roberson, I don't have the detailed information
that you are seeking here, other than to say that the American
Water Works Association is very concerned about the
contamination of MTBE in drinking water. We note that it is a
cross-jurisdictional issue in terms of Washington, and we look
forward to it being addressed quickly.
Mr. Green. Let me ask specifically, what about your
experience in Philadelphia?
Mr. Neukrug. In Philadelphia, we have not identified MTBE
in drinking water. We have a source water supply, not a
groundwater supply, and have not found it at this point.
Mr. Green. Is Philadelphia using reformulated gasoline?
Mr. Neukrug. Yes.
Mr. Green. It is reformulated using MTBE or ethanol, if you
Mr. Neukrug. MTBE, I believe.
Mr. Green. Anyone else, the question concerning the Texas
Mr. Olson. I would just want to add that if you are
interested in the national picture, USGS has done a fairly
EPA is pulling together the State-by-State data that is
available, which I have been told will be available later this
year or earlier next year.
Mr. Green. I always approach the issue of MTBE that I don't
want to drink whatever makes my car run, whether it is MTBE or
I know the earlier testimony we had that MTBE actually
stays longer in the water supply--it does not stay that much
longer, because the information I have from north Texas with
our lake, sure, other things evaporated or dissipated, but
within a week or 10 days the MTBE--the smell and taste was also
Is that what you have heard of? Again, this is just
reporting. Is there any information on that?
Mr. Olson. There is information on persistence. It depends.
In the ground, it persists longer than it does when it can
volatilize, obviously. I think EPA is looking at that as well
when they are developing their secondary standard.
Mr. Green. Mr. Gloriod, did you wish to comment?
Mr. Gloriod. No comment, sir.
Mr. Green. Okay. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Bryant. Let me thank the panel for being concise in
your answers and very informative, and certainly you have been
a great help to this committee, as well as the first panel.
This hearing is closed.
[Whereupon, at 12:12 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned,
subject to the call of the Chair.]
[Additional material submitted for the record follows:]