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Drinking Water Quality Notifications

Posted on 8/9/2016 by Anthony Cardno

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requires EPA to establish drinking water quality standards based on the levels of certain contaminants found in the water. EPA must review these standards every five years to determine whether more contaminants should be regulated.

These National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR) apply to Public Water Systems and are found at 40 CFR 141–142. The NPDWR establish Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for six categories of contaminants:
  • Microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, protozoa)
  • Inorganic chemicals (naturally occurring metals and minerals)
  • Synthetic organic chemicals (man-made carbon-containing chemicals)
  • Volatile organic chemicals (chemicals that readily volatize, including solvents)
  • Radionuclides (naturally occurring radioactive chemicals)
  • Disinfection by-products (formed when disinfectants are added to water)

What Is a Public Water System (PWS)?
Public Water Systems (PWS) are systems for the provision of water for human consumption through pipes or other constructed conveyances, if that system has at least 15 service connections or regularly serves an average of at least 25 individuals for at least 60 days out of the year. [40 CFR 141.3]


Public Water Systems are required to notify their customers of any violation of the NPDWR. There are three levels (or tiers) of notification, all based on the severity of the violation.
 
 

Tier I


Tier I notifications are required for violations of the NPDWR that pose some significant potential to have serious adverse effects on human health as a result of short-term exposure.

If there is a Tier I violation, the PWS must notify its recipients as soon as is practical, but no later than 24 hours after the PWS learns of the violation. The PWS must provide notice by one or more of the following methods:
  • Broadcast media (local radio or television)
  • Posted notices throughout the area served by the water system
  • Hand delivery (door-to-door)
  • Some other delivery method approved by the EPA or an authorized State agency

Tier II

Tier II notifications are required for violations of the NPDWR that have the potential to have serious adverse effects on human health but which don't qualify as Tier I situations (for instance, those that will only make people sick after a longer period of exposure).

If there is a Tier II violation, the PWS must notify its recipients as soon as is practical, but not later than 30 days after the PWS becomes aware of the violation. This notice must be repeated once every three months, as long as the condition causing the violation exists. The PWS must provide notice by:
  • Mail or direct mail to each customer receiving a bill, and
  • Any other method that will reasonably reach other persons regularly served by the system who may not be reached by mail, such as tenants in an apartment building. These methods could include publication in a daily newspaper or delivering multiple copies of the notice to a location for distribution to all residents.

Tier III

Tier III notifications are required for all other violations of the NPDWR that don't meet the criteria to be considered Tier I or Tier II. If there is a Tier III violation, the PWS must notify its recipients no later than one year after learning of the violation. Notice must be repeated annually as long as the condition exists. The notice must be provided by:
  • Mail or direct mail to each customer receiving a bill, and
  • Any other method that will reasonably reach other persons regularly served by the PWS who may not be reached by mail, such as tenants in an apartment building. These methods could include publication in a daily newspaper or delivering multiple copies to a location for distribution to all residents.

Notification Content


Each notification must contain clear and readily understandable explanations of the:
  • Violations
  • Potential adverse health effects
  • Steps being taken to correct the violation
  • Necessity for seeking alternate water supplies
  • Preventative measures recipients should take until the violation is corrected

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