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EPA drinking water revisions fall short for cities.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner last week outlined ten principals for revising the Safe Drinking Water Act. Major municipal concerns with the statute -- revising the standard setting process and amending current monitoring requirements -- were not included in the Administration package.

In addition to reiterating the administration's support for a five-year, $4.6 billion revolving loan fund, the EPA administrator proposed that Congress authorize a state fee program to ensure and/or enhance state primacy (administration) of the water program. While Browner neither specified fee sources (examples offered by EPA included water use fees [which NLC opposes], connection fees, population-based fees, and fees-for service) nor amounts, EPA indicated that States would have flexibility to design their own mechanisms for funding state programs. In states that lose primary, fees would revert to EPA to finance federal administration of the drinking water program in the affected state.

Two of the ten proposals involve source water protection: the first, a mandatory source water protection initiatives for both surface and groundwater which would involve identification of drinking water protection areas, contamination susceptibility, and public education initiatives; and, the second, a voluntary "enhanced" program involving more extensive water protection programs such as enforceable controls on sources of pollution, more detailed inventories of sources of contamination and state oversight of implementation of controls. Systems implementing an "enhanced" program "would be eligible for alternatives to the usual EPA requirements, including alternative monitoring and prevention-based treatment exemptions.

Two additional provisions relate to small water systems -- defined in the Safe Drinking Water Act as systems serving 10,000 or fewer people. The first program would require the states -- as a condition for primacy -- to implement a 'small system viability' program. Such a program would be designed to prevent new 'non-viable' systems, provide for carrying out a state workplan to assess the viability of existing systems."

Second, Browner proposes to establish alternative Best Available Technology (BAT) for small systems. According to EPA, the alternative technology "may not consistently produce finished water that meets the general standard (depending on source water quality), but is less expensive than conventional BAT."

Browner also proposes to replace the current law requirement that EPA develop standards for 25 new contaminants every three years with a system involving the Science Advisory Board in selecting and regulating new contaminants.

Recognizing the constraints in complying with new drinking water requirements in 18 months, as mandated by current law, EPA is also seeking legislative authority to tailor compliance requirements on a regulation-by-regulation basis to more realistic time frames of up to 5 years.

The remaining principles include operator training and certification and enhanced enforcement provisions.
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Title Annotation:Environmental Protection Agency
Author:Kocheisen, Carol
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Sep 13, 1993
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