Since 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act has been the primary federal law that guarantees the public that their drinking water is safe. Prior to the adoption of this act, there was little in the way of federal regulations protecting the general public from drinking water with harmful chemicals in it.
The protections of the Safe Drinking Water Act are broad. They apply to sources of drinking water held both above and beneath the ground. As the science surrounding drinking water has advanced, the United States Congress has amended the act to improve enforcement. A Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer can help you seek compensation if you suffer from a qualifying condition.
What does the Safe Drinking Water Act Apply To?
The Safe Drinking Water Act applies to the vast majority of sources of drinking water in the United States. Specifically, it covers every drinking water provider in all 50 states. According to 42 U.S.C. §300f et seq. (1974), a public water system is one that has at least 15 connections and serves a minimum of 25 individuals for a minimum of 60 days out of the year.
There are a few exceptions where the act does not apply. The primary exception involves homes serviced by wells. Unlike other water sources, well water on private property is not covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), roughly 13 percent of all homes in the United States are served by well water.
The second major exception is bottled water. This water is not regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, but it is still heavily regulated by the federal government. The EPA is tasked with regulating the sale of drinking water.
Safe Drinking Water Act Standards
The primary efforts of the Safe Drinking Water Act are to establish the National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWRs). These standards set out a list of harmful chemicals that are not permitted in any public water system. The regulations set by the Safe Drinking Water Act set maximum allowable limits for contamination levels. Public water systems are required to monitor and prevent contamination from numerous sources:
- Inorganic chemicals
- Organic chemicals
In addition to setting allowable levels for harmful substances, the act also outlawed lead pipes and plumbing fixtures, as well as provides a variety of enforcement options for the EPA when it comes to violators of the act.
The Legislative History of the SDWA
The Safe Drinking Water Act was signed into law in the 1970s, with the water standards authorized by the act going into effect on June 25, 1977. These standards involved years of work by the EPA to determine appropriate levels of specific substances that should be considered toxic. For nearly a decade, these regulations were enforced by the EPA.
In 1986, President Ronald Regan signed an amendment to the act that expanded the EPA’s authority and broadened the list of substances that were banned from public water systems. These amendments also included wellhead protection programs, increased enforcement power over underground injection well operators, and a ban on lead pipes.
The most recent amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act was signed into law on August 6, 1996. These amendments expanded the public’s right to know what is in their water. It also provided additional funding to communities to upgrade their water systems. Additionally, this amendment further expanded the EPA’s enforcement powers.
The EPA is tasked with enforcing the federal standards set in the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA has set up the Public Water System Supervision (PWSS) program that exists to ensure the safety of public drinking water. In addition to federal regulators, some states have been authorized by the EPA to also monitor water quality as well.
EPA and state regulators monitor the quality of public water systems at all times. This system involves regularly taking random water samples from public water systems to investigate whether they contain banned or harmful material.
The EPA takes two major steps when these investigations suggest a water system has harmful chemicals. First, the EPA issues a warning to the public advising them of their findings. Second, the federal government works with water systems to address areas where standards have been exceeded.
Discuss Water Contamination with Our Firm
Despite the protections offered by the Safe Drinking Water Act, water contamination is still an issue in parts of the country. What’s more, those that were exposed to dangerous drinking water years ago are only now facing the health consequences related to that exposure.
The team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC, is ready to advocate for you. If you were exposed to dangerous or contaminated drinking water, you could be entitled to a monetary award. Give yourself the best chance at recovering the damages you deserve. Call right away for a free consultation.