Looking Back at Just How Far We’ve Come

Among all of the regulatory requirements, program updates, and press releases on compliance, EPA’s website also contains a “history” page.  This page looks back at important events in the life of the 40 year old Agency through the lens of official press releases.  The 1973 press release below captures some early thinking about the need for a Federal program to oversee the safety of the water we drink.  Read below to see if today’s Safe Drinking Water Act still reflects these early views.  Take special note of the expectation that public disclosure of noncompliance would preclude the need for enforcement actions or penalties.  For more historical “views,” go to:  http://www.epa.gov/history/publications/hist_pr.html

EPA Voices Support for Safe Drinking Water Act

[Excerpts from EPA press release – March 8, 1973]

EPA Deputy Administrator Robert W. Fri today said that the Administration’s proposed Safe Drinking Water Act will provide an effective solution to the problem of providing safe drinking water to the public.  Fri said that “deficiencies among the Nation’s drinking water supply systems and surveillance programs have been well documented…”  Under the President’s bill, Fri testified, the EPA Administrator would establish new Federal primary drinking water standards protective of public health and secondary standards for such matters as taste, odor and appearance. State and local agencies would be responsible for determining the necessary controls to meet the standards.

While treatment, operation, maintenance and construction requirements are not made mandatory under the bill, information as to such would have to be published when standards are issued and would therefore be available for use by suppliers of drinking water in their operation. “That information could also be readily converted into regulations by State and local governments,” Fri said. “We believe the enforcement provisions of the bill will be highly effective, almost self-executing and require little direct Federal involvement, he said.”

The bill provides that the States shall have primary enforcement authority with regard to the drinking water standards and that EPA will monitor activities of the States and public water supply systems only to the extent necessary to determine if there is an adequate program to enforce the primary standards.  “This provision [Fri said], coupled with a citizen suit provision will, we believe, make enforcement actions by regulatory agencies largely unnecessary. We believe that suppliers of drinking water, who in almost all cases charge for their product, could not withstand the public pressure if their customers have noticed that they are receiving water not in compliance with mandatory health standards.”