WASHINGTON -- Beginning next year, all Americans would be told what is in their tap water and how safe it is to drink, under a program proposed yesterday by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Moving to implement a key element of the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clinton administration proposed regulations that would require water companies to tell consumers at least once a year where their water comes from, the chemicals and bacteria that are in it and the potential health hazards of the contaminants.
Such notices already are provided to consumers in San Francisco, Denver and some Maryland suburbs, according to the EPA.
The new program will allow water agencies to list only contaminants that are detectable, which will make the information easier to read and understand, said Jennifer Smith, an environmental specialist with the Metropolitan Water District, which supplies 60 percent of the water consumed in a large area of Southern California. Water agencies also are being encouraged to use common, recognizable names of contaminants, such as Roundup.
The EPA's action yesterday is not related to the current focus on the potential risk that chemicals in tap water may pose to pregnant women.
A study by California state researchers has suggested a possible link between chlorinated tap water and first-trimester miscarriages.
The study found that pregnant women who drank five or more glasses of cold tap water a day containing at least 75 micrograms per liter of trihalomethanes had an increased risk of miscarriage.
The regulations would require the nation's 56,000 companies and public agencies that provide drinking water to report on their water's overall quality, whether it meets the federal agency's safety standards, its likely sources of contaminants, and the health risks stemming from any water systems that violate the safety standards.
Large water companies would be required to mail their reports to consumers; companies serving fewer than 10,000 people would be allowed to print their reports in a local newspaper or post them in a central location.
Pub Date: 2/12/98