EPA Releases Spring 2011 Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda

Twice each year (spring and fall), EPA and other federal agencies issue a formal report on their recent accomplishments and plans for regulatory action.  The “spring” agenda has just been released.  Below is a brief synopsis of the drinking water actions in this semi-annual agenda.  Please visit the full agenda to get more detail about these actions and information on actions in other areas like the Clean Water Act that might be of interest to you.  You can access the full agenda through Regulations.gov by selecting EPA from the list of agencies.  The Office of Water actions are on the last few pages of EPA’s agenda.

Completed Action

Perchlorate Regulatory Determination

On February 11, 2011 EPA made a final regulatory determination that perchlorate meets the Safe Drinking Water Act’s (SDWA’s) criteria for regulating a contaminant. SDWA requires EPA to make determinations every five years of whether to regulate at least five contaminants on its Contaminant Candidate List (CCL). A regulatory determination is a formal decision on whether EPA should initiate a rulemaking process to develop a national primary drinking water regulation for a specific contaminant. See additional details under Long Term Action.

Final Rule

Revisions to the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Regulation (UCMR 3) for Public Water Systems

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), as amended in 1996, requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish criteria for a program to monitor not more than 30 unregulated contaminants every five years. EPA published the first group of contaminants in the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Regulation (i.e., UCMR 1), which established a revised approach for UCMR implementation, in 1999, and the second list of unregulated contaminants (UCMR 2) in 2007. The proposed regulation will meet the SDWA requirement for identifying new priority contaminants to be monitored during the third UCMR cycle (i.e., UCMR 3) of 2012-2015.  The proposed rule was issued in March 2011 and a final rule is expected early in 2012. 

Proposed Rule 

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for Lead and Copper: Regulatory Revisions

EPA promulgated a set of short-term regulatory revisions and clarifications on October 10, 2007, to strengthen implementation of the existing Lead and Copper Rule. In developing the short-term revisions, EPA identified several regulatory changes to be considered as part of identifying more comprehensive changes to the rule. This action addresses these remaining regulatory revisions. Regulatory changes to be addressed may include changes to flushing guidance and sample collection following a partial lead service line replacement; lead service line replacement programs; potential changes to the sample site selection criteria for lead and copper sites; guidance on new corrosion control treatments; tap sampling issues including pre-stagnation flushing, aerator removal, and maximum stagnation times; and consecutive water systems.  A rule work group, including states, is in the final stages of developing this rule package.  A proposed rule is expected in early 2012 with a final rule by the end of 2013.


National Primary Drinking Water Regulations; Arsenic and Clarifications to Compliance and New Source Contaminants Monitoring

In 2001, EPA revised the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for arsenic to 0.010 mg/L. While EPA has taken steps to evaluate and mitigate impacts on small entities as part of the promulgation of the Arsenic Rule, EPA reviewed the arsenic rule pursuant to section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. As part of this review, EPA considered and solicited comments on the following factors: (1) The continued need for the rule; (2) the nature of complaints or comments received concerning the rule; (3) the complexity of the rule; (4) the extent to which the rule overlaps, duplicates, or conflicts with other Federal, State, or local government rules; and (5) the degree to which the technology, economic conditions or other factors have changed in the area affected by the rule. ASDWA and states provided comments under this review.  EPA is currently reviewing the public comments received in response to this review and will develop a response to comment document, upon completion of this review by fall 2011.

Long-term Action

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Aldicarb

EPA promulgated MCLs for aldicarb, aldicarb sulfoxide, and aldicarb sulfone in the Phase II rulemaking in 1991. In response to an administrative petition from the manufacturer Rhone-Poulenc, the Agency issued an administrative stay of the effective date. EPA will reexamine risk assessment and occurrence data on aldicarb and make a determination of what further action is appropriate.  There are no projected dates for this action.

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Group Regulation of Carcinogenic Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs)

The Agency announced in February 2011 that it plans to develop one national drinking water regulation (NDWR) covering up to 16 carcinogenic VOCs. EPA will propose a regulation to address carcinogenic contaminants as groups rather than individually in order to provide public health protections more quickly and also allow utilities to more effectively and efficiently plan for improvements. PCE and TCE, which the Agency determined were candidates for regulatory revision under the second six year review of the existing NPDWRs will be included in the VOC drinking water standard. Besides PCE and TCE, the group may include up to six additional regulated VOCs – benzene; carbon tetrachloride; 1,2-dichloroethane; 1,2-dichloropropane; dichloromethane; vinyl chloride; and up to eight unregulated VOCs from the EPA’s Contaminant Candidate List 3 – aniline; benzyl chloride; 1,3-butadiene; 1,1-dichloroethane; nitrobenzene; oxirane methyl; 1,2,3-trichloropropane and urethane.  A proposed rule is expected in late 2013 with a final rule in early 2015.

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Radon

In 1999, EPA proposed regulations for radon which provide flexibility in how to manage the health risks from radon in drinking water. The proposal was based on the unique framework in the 1996 SDWA that would provide for either a maximum contaminant level (MCL), or an alternative maximum contaminant level (AMCL) with a multimedia mitigation (MMM) program to address radon in indoor air. There is no projected date for final action on this rule.

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Regulation of Perchlorate

The Agency announced in February 2011 that it is beginning development of a national drinking water regulation for perchlorate in drinking water. In accordance with SDWA requirements, the Agency will evaluate the health effects of perchlorate, the feasibility of treatment, the affordability of treatment for small systems, and the costs/benefits of a perchlorate standard. EPA also plans to seek input through informal and formal processes from the Science Advisory Board, the National Drinking Water Advisory Council, the Department of Health and Human Services, State and Tribal drinking water programs, the regulated community, public health organizations, academia, environmental and public interest groups, and other interested stakeholders on a number of issues relating to the regulation.  A proposed rule is expected in early 2013 with a final rule in mid 2015.

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Revisions to the Total Coliform Rule

EPA is revising the Total Coliform Rule (TCR), which was published in 1989. The original TCR protects human health by requiring microbial monitoring in drinking water distribution systems. EPA convened a Federal Advisory Committee to recommend revisions to the TCR. In 2008, members of that committee signed an agreement in principle (AIP), which recommended revisions to the TCR, as well as research and information collection needed to better understand potential public health impacts from conditions in the distribution system and control of microbial drinking water contamination. EPA has drafted a proposed rule that has the same elements and effects as the recommendations in the AIP. The proposed rule requires water systems to find and fix pathways to contamination when monitoring results indicate that microbial contamination is present, develops specific criteria for public water systems to qualify for and stay on reduced monitoring, and aims to improve consumer understanding and confidence by making required public notices about the drinking water quality more meaningful.  The proposed rule was issued in July 2010 and a final rule is expected late in 2012.

National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWR): Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) and Technical Corrections to the NSDWR

Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) was primarily used as an automobile fuel additive, introduced in the late 1970s during lead phase-out as an octane enhancer. Production peaked in the 1990s but has since been phased out. However, MTBE has been detected in ground water and drinking water in a number of states due to leaking underground storage tanks and leaking pipelines.  Although most drinking water detections are at levels well below health concern, MTBE’s distinctive turpentine-like taste and odor can be detected at low levels. Presently, the Agency is revising the health assessment for MTBE.  There are no projected dates for any regulatory action.