EPA Adopts New SDWA Enforcement Strategy

Dec. 11, 2009
Agency plans to crack down on SDWA violators

Under a new Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) enforcement strategy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2010 will begin focusing its attention on returning water systems with serious and recurring violations to compliance instead of acting on a contaminant-by-contaminant compliance basis.

As detailed in a memo to regional administrators, EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance asserts the new approach "will bring the systems with the most significant violations to the top of the list for enforcement action in states, territories and in federal Indian country, so that we can return those systems to compliance as quickly as possible. As we work to protect the public's access to clean and safe drinking water, we need to be especially vigilant about noncompliance that has the potential to affect children, such as violations at schools and day care centers."

The Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance developed the new strategy in cooperation with the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, EPA regions and the EPA Office of Water. The strategy will be evaluated throughout 2010 for opportunities for improvements.

The agency said the new strategy aims to:
• Align SDWA violations within a prioritization that is more protective of public health;
• View public water system compliance status comprehensively;
• Ensure that both EPA and states act on and resolve drinking water violations;
• Recognize the validity of informal enforcement response efforts while ensuring that, if these efforts have proven ineffective, enforceable and timely action is taken;
• Ensure that EPA and states escalate enforcement efforts based on the prioritization approach; and
• Increase the effectiveness of state and federal enforcement targeting efforts by providing a "tool" that calculates comprehensive noncompliance status for all systems and identifies those systems not meeting national expectations as set by EPA.

Source: AWWA