Grab a glass, turn on the faucet, and take a drink. It’s a simple thing we do every day without much thought. But it wasn’t that long ago that at least parts of the country had reason to pause before reaching for tap water. As recently as the 1970s, in fact, concerns over drinking water quality were high and news was abuzz with reports of contaminants that posed risks to public health.
The tides began to turn on Dec. 16, 1974 when President Gerald Ford signed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) into law. One in a string of environmental legislation, the act set the stage for the first national health-based standards for drinking water.
The standards—set by U.S. EPA and enforced primarily by the states—set maximum levels for roughly 90 contaminants ranging from pesticides to human waste to naturally-occurring chemicals that can endanger public health. The more than 150,000 public water systems regulated under SDWA are required to test for contaminants and make changes when standards aren’t met.
Over the years, Congress has expanded SDWA several times. The original act focused primarily on treatment processes and technologies. Today, states are also required to assess the quality of rivers, lakes, and groundwater used for drinking water and determine their vulnerability to contamination. Grant and loan programs were also established in 1996 to help providers, particularly small water systems, protect source water, improve treatment processes, and train system operators and managers.
The 1996 amendments also make it easier for you to learn where your water comes from, how it is treated, and what you can do to protect drinking water supplies. Community water systems are required to provide this information in annual consumer confidence reports. You can also get answers to specific questions by calling the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline.
Despite these improvements, ensuring Americans have access to safe drinking water is not without its challenges. Check back here later this week for more information on some of the major obstacles faced by water providers and communities.
A federal appeals court yesterday unanimously rejected a challenge by the pharmaceutical industry to a local ordinance that would require drug manufacturers to pay for the disposal of unwanted medicine in California’s Alameda County, the first law of its kind in the nation.
Approved by county supervisors in July 2012, the Alameda County Safe Medication Disposal Ordinance requires the makers of prescription drugs sold in the county to fund the collection, transportation, and disposal of unused or expired medications from residential sources. The requirements are similar to those underpinning successful medicine collection programs in Canada, France, and Australia.
Implementation of the law was stalled in Dec. 2012 by a lawsuit filed by industry trade associations. With support from drugmakers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the groups argued that the ordinance illegally shifts local costs to out-of-county producers and interferes with interstate commerce. But the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco disagreed, saying the ordinance treats local and non-local manufacturers equally and imposes no substantial burden on interstate trade.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers could still appeal to the Supreme Court. If the decision stands, it could serve as a precedent for a similar measure in Washington. In the wake of the Alameda County ordinance, the King County Board of Health passed a law requiring manufacturers to install medicine drop-off boxes and provide pre-paid, pre-addressed mailers upon request.
The county was sued in Nov. 2013, with drug manufacturers comparing the ordinance to requiring news publications to conduct paper recycling or food producers to collect spoiled food. That case was put on hold until the Alameda County lawsuit could be resolved.
In the battle against invasive sea lampreys in the Great Lakes region, Wisconsin has committed to the fight with new legislation signed last week.
“To help combat the invasive, eel-like fish, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation on Thursday for the state to spend up to $564,500 in the next two fiscal years on lamprey control efforts on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.
The controls include chemical treatments and barriers that block the movement of swimming lamprey, which according to the Wisconsin DNR ‘have no jaws, no true teeth, no paired fins and a skeleton made of cartilage, not true bone.’
The state funds are expected to be matched with federal dollars for control efforts that are taking place across the Great Lakes basin.
In Lake Michigan, 126 of 511 tributaries have historic records of sea lamprey production. Of those 83 tributaries have been treated with chemicals, according to the Fish and Wildlife Commission. A major focus of treatment took place on the Oconto River in northeastern Wisconsin, where about 60 miles of the river were treated.”
Read the complete article at the link above.