Clean, safe drinking water is a precious resource, and yet most of us take it for granted most of the time. Typically, it is only when there is news of a water contamination crisis that people begin to realize how lucky they are to have clean water.
Although relatively clean water is something most people in the United States have most of the time, readers may be surprised to learn that our water is not necessarily as clean as we might assume. According to the nonprofit environmental advocacy group National Resources Defense Council, nearly every state is known to have numerous violations of federal clean drinking water standards.
In a recent report examining drinking water systems nationwide, the nonprofit found nearly 80,000 violations of federal law impacting drinking water in 2015, the last year for which data was gathered. The problem is particularly pronounced in rural areas with small drinking water systems. These areas, according to the report, accounted for over half of all health-based violations and almost 70 percent of the total number of violations researchers found.
Unfortunately, Georgia water was among the worst in terms of Safe Drinking Water Act violations. The report noted nearly 2,000 violations in over 900 drinking water systems serving over 3.8 million Georgians.
The Safe Drinking Water Act was passed into law in 1974 in order to establish minimum standards of safety for drinking water nationwide. The law gives the Environmental Protection Agency the power to set minimum standards for tap water and to ensure owners and operators of public water utilities meet these standards. More recent amendments to the law require the agency to review risk and cost assessments and peer-reviewed science when establishing these standards.
In our next post, we’ll look at enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act, and how the law is enforced.