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Strengthened water quality monitoring and filtration rules were announced early December by the Environmental Protection Agency, the first regulations on the subject published since the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 were signed into law.

The Stage 1 Disinfectant and Disinfection Byproduct Rule and the Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule are intended to reduce the ill-health effects of microbial contaminants, and from the byproducts of disinfectants used to control typhoid, cholera, and other water-borne diseases.

On the same day the rules were announced, the administration released $869 million in aid to states and territories to help meet the new requirements.

The bulk of the funding, $775 million in fiscal 1999 appropriations, is from a federal state revolving loan fund established by the 1996 act. Monies from the fund are used as grants to states, which then make low-interest loans to water systems for source water protection activities and infrastructure upgrades. An additional $94 million is to be made available in public water supply supervision grants.

The two new rules impose strengthened filtration and monitoring requirements on water systems that together serve 60 million Americans. According to the administration, the new requirements will prevent about 460,000 cases of waterborne illness each year.

In a compromise between Congress and the Clinton administration, the 1996 act raised the bar for EPA drinking water rulemaking, requiring greater scientific proof and scrutiny of proposed standards before implementation. Work on the two rules announced in December, however, actually began in 1992, so the rules were not subject to those heightened standards.

Although disinfection has proven effective at controlling many microbes, several variants have been identified in recent years that are not controlled by traditional disinfection methods. In addition, the disinfectants themselves can react with naturally occurring materials in the water to form unintended byproducts which may pose health risks, according to EPA's Office of Water.

The health risk example cited most often by agency officials is Cryptosporidium, which was responsible for a 1993 outbreak in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that caused intestinal illness in 400,000 people. More than 4,000 people were hospitalized as a result, and at least 50 people died from the disease.

Systems serving at least 100,000 people are subject to information and data collection requirements to aid EPA in the microbial and disinfection byproducts rulemaking process. The interim enhanced surface treatment rule requires systems that serve more than 10,000 people to set a maximum contaminant level goal of zero for Cryptosporidium, and to strengthen combined filter effluent turbidity performance standards.

The systems also will have to comply with individual filter turbidity monitoring and disinfectant profiling and benchmarking provisions. Covers must be placed on new finished water reservoirs, and sanitary surveys also must be conducted by states for all surface water systems regardless of size.

Meanwhile, under the disinfectants and disinfection byproducts rule, the community water systems and non-transient, noncommunity water systems that add disinfectants during any part of the treatment process must comply with new standards. The systems must meet maximum residual disinfectant level goals, maximum contaminant level goals, and treatment technique standards set forth in the rule.

Agency officials also released a schedule of expected actions on microbial and disinfection byproduct rules EPA plans to finish between now and the year 2002. A filter backwash recycling rule is expected to be released by August 2000. The agency also plans to finalize a "Long-Term 1" enhanced surface water treatment rule and ground water rule by November 2000. By May 2002, EPA plans to finalize a "Stage 2" disinfection byproduct rule and a "Long-Term 2" enhanced surface water treatment rule.
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Author:Holmes, Jeremy
Publication:Public Works
Date:Jan 1, 1999
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