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Public unaware of water problems.

Water utilities often fail to notify customers when temporary problems arise in the quality of drinking water, according to a June report by the General Accounting Office (GAO).

From 1989 to 1991, GAO surveyed 28 water systems in Arizona, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. It determined that consumers learned of problems quickly in only 17 of 157 incidents, even though the law requires timely notification. Also, 103 violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act involved problems that may pose long-term health risks. More than half the time, consumers never received warnings at all.

The report cites inadequate manpower and resources plus complex notification regulations as the chief causes of the problem. It also notes that government officials expect that eventual regulation of 83 contaminants in drinking water will make compliance even more difficult.

The Environmental Protection Agency requires specific venues of communication for violations with immediate, long-term, or indirect effects on public health. The GAO report calls for greater flexibility in the notification requirements and for reduced emphasis on notification for less serious infractions.
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Title Annotation:water companies fail to notify consumers of water quality risks
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Aug 15, 1992
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