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Understanding the Safe Drinking Water Act

Accident Attorneys of America aggressively pursue fair compensation for unsafe drinking water. If you have questions about the Safe Drinking Water Act, call us!

What Is the Safe Drinking Water Act?

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is a United States federal law that ensures safe drinking water for the public. The law applies to every public source of drinking water in the US. It authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and enforce minimum quality standards for those water systems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90% of Americans get their tap water from these public community water systems. Although they are subject to the EPA-established safe drinking water standards, water contamination can still occur, leading to long-term adverse health effects for those exposed.

If you suspect that you’ve been exposed to contaminated drinking water from public water supplies, which has led to your suffering from cancer or another type of illness, you may be able to file a lawsuit with the help of a skilled water contamination cancer lawyer and get compensated for the harm you suffered. Read on to learn more.

Contents of the Act

The SDWA was first enacted in 1974 by congress to set and maintain drinking water standards and strengthen public health protection, but it has been amended several times since it was first made. Nevertheless, the goal of the Act, which is to protect public drinking water sources, remains the same.

The provisions of the Act empower the EPA to take charge of establishing systems to protect the quality of drinking water in the US. As such, the EPA is required to perform several functions, including the following:


Make National Primary Drinking Water Regulations

Making primary drinking water regulations is one of the key functions of the EPA. In accordance with the SDWA, the regulations must perform the following functions:

  • Apply to all public water systems
  • Specify contaminants that could negatively affect public health
  • Specify a maximum contaminant level or treatment technique for each identified contaminant
  • Contain criteria and procedures to promote and ensure a steady supply of public drinking water that complies with the prescribed maximum contaminant levels. The criteria and procedures referred to here could include quality control and testing methods to ensure compliance and proper maintenance of the public water systems.

Monitor and Enforce Compliance With Set Standards

Having set standards for drinking water quality in public water systems to protect public health, the EPA also has to monitor whether water suppliers and state and local authorities implement these standards and enforce them if they don’t.

To achieve compliance, the EPA partners with states, tribes, and communities through their Public Water System Supervision Program to monitor the status of public water systems. Once a water source is found to be contaminated beyond the prescribed limit, the EPA works with the stakeholders to remove the contaminant where possible and notify members of the public of the water safety issue.


Encourage to Attain National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations

According to the SDWA, state and local governments are also encouraged to attain the National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations, which set non-mandatory water quality standards for 15 contaminants.

These regulations are practical guidelines that can be used to help public water systems manage their drinking water for non-health-related issues such as color, taste, and smell. Even though these contaminants may not necessarily be harmful to human health, they may cause the water to smell bad or look colored if they are present at levels above the set standards.

These regulations also include a process that must be followed to name unregulated contaminants that may have to be regulated in the future.

EPA also issues health advisories for some chemical and microbial contaminants that are not regulated with maximum contaminant levels. These advisories provide different information for public health officials, such as the health effects of certain contaminants.

The Importance of Safe Drinking Water: The Case of Camp Lejeune

Camp Lejeune became known for arguably the worst drinking water contamination in the United States. The water supply at this Marine Corps Base and training facility in Jacksonville, NC, was contaminated with hazardous and cancer-causing chemicals between 1953 and 1987.

According to the CDC, the Camp Lejeune contamination affected between 500,000 and 1 million people and has been linked to many illnesses, such as different types of cancers, congenital disabilities, and Parkinson’s disease. The good news is that the US Congress passed the Camp Lejeune Act in 2022 to allow those affected by the ugly event to receive compensation. So, if you or your family members were at Camp Lejeune as civilians or military personnel, you may be able to get compensation under the new law. To be eligible, you’ll need to be able to show the following:

  • You were at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987
  • You were exposed to the contaminated water within that time
  • You had been diagnosed with one of the illnesses linked to the incident.

If you meet the requirements or are unsure about your eligibility, you can contact an experienced attorney for help.

EPA Water Supply Regulations

The EPA, in fulfillment of this mandate, has made several water supply regulations, including the following:


Regulations on Contaminants

Drinking water contaminants are anything else other than water molecules. Drinking water may contain small amounts of some contaminants, and their presence at these small concentrations doesn’t mean that water poses a health risk. But, if the contaminants found in drinking water are above certain levels, then that water may cause adverse health effects.

Before making regulations for identified contaminants, the EPA considers several factors, including public health risks. If the EPA decides that a contaminant does not warrant regulation, they may develop a health advisory – a non-enforceable federal limit that can be used as technical guidance for local, state, and federal officials. The EPA, however, collects data on any unregulated contaminants found in a water system through its Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Program and reviews them every five years.

Currently, the EPA has regulations for 90 contaminants, including arsenic, lead, copper, organic chemicals, and radionuclides.

Treatment Regulations

The EPA has made several regulations for the treatment of public drinking water, including the Surface Water Treatment Rules. These rules require public water providers to disinfect and filter their surface water sources. They include treatment techniques and establishing maximum contaminant levels for common pathogens that contaminate water, including Legionella, Giardia lamblia, and Cryptosporidium.


Right-to-Know Regulations

The SDWA requires that public water consumers be informed if there is a problem with their drinking water. The EPA rule to this effect is known as the Public Notification Rule. Under this rule, public drinking water providers are required to notify their customers in certain circumstances, including if:

  • The water does not meet EPA drinking water standards
  • They fail to test their water system at the appropriate time
  • They have been granted more time to comply with a new EPA regulation

The EPA also requires community water systems operators to deliver Consumer Confidence Reports to their customers. These reports are also known as annual drinking water quality reports and are made to provide public water consumers with information about their local drinking water quality.

Note that the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR) and the standards they set are legally enforceable. If your water system provider has failed to comply with any of them and your health has suffered because of their failure, you could file a lawsuit against them and receive compensation. You can contact America’s accident attorneys for more information and guidance.

How an Attorney Can Help

If you get ill, it can be hard to prove that contaminated drinking water caused it. However, skilled attorneys may be able to establish a relationship between the water you have been drinking and the illness you have suffered. This way, you can get compensation for the damage to your health.

Accident Attorneys or America can assist you if you have further questions about your exposure to contaminated water and seeking redress. Let us help you find personalized solutions that can help you achieve the desired outcome.

Reach out to us today to schedule a free consultation.

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