oversight

Drinking Water: Compliance Problems Undermine EPA Program as New Challenges Emerge

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-06-08.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

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    Resources, Community, and
    Economic Development Division

    B-239166

    June 8,lQQO

    The Honorable Mike Synar
    Chairman, Environment, Energy,
      and Natural Resources Subcommittee
    Committee on Government Operations
    House of Representatives

    Dear Mr. Chairman:

    At your request, we have assessed implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act program
    by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states. Specifically, this report
    discusses (1) the extent to which community water systems (systems serving permanent
    residents) have complied with the act’s requirements for monitoring water supplies and
    meeting drinking water standards, (2) the effectiveness of EPAand state enforcement
    programs in ensuring compliance with these requirements, and (3) the impacts of new
    drinking water requirements on the program.

    As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we will make
    no further distribution of this report until 30 days after the date of this letter. At that time,
    we will send copies to other appropriate congressional committees; the Administrator, EPA;
    and the Director, Office of Management and Budget. We will also make copies available to
    other interested parties.

    This work was performed under the direction of Richard L. Hembra, Director, Environmental
    Protection Issues, who may be reached at (202) 275-6111. Other major contributors to this
    report are listed in appendix IV.

    Sincerely yours,




                                        /
Y   J. Dexter Peach
    Assistant Comptroller General
Executive Summary


             While improved treatment by public water supply systems has virtually
Purpose      eliminated the threat of typhoid fever, cholera, and other diseases that
             once plagued the nation’s drinking water supplies, waterborne disease
             outbreaks continue to occur. In recent years, public health and environ-
             mental officials have also become increasingly concerned about a
             proliferation of man-made chemical contaminants found in drinking
             water supplies. Many of these contaminants have been linked to cancer,
             birth defects, and other serious health problems.

             Concerned about the effectiveness of the Environmental Protection
             Agency’s (EPA) efforts to safeguard water supplies from contamination,
             the Chairman, Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Subcommit-
             tee, House Committee on Government Operations, asked GAOto assess
             key elements of the agency’s safe drinking water program. Among the
             issues GAOexamined were (1) the extent to which community water sys-
             tems (systems serving permanent residents) have complied with
             requirements for monitoring water supplies and meeting drinking water
             standards, (2) the effectiveness of state enforcement programs to ensure
             compliance with these requirements, and (3) the impacts of new drink-
             ing water requirements, mandated by the 1986 amendments to the Safe
             Drinking Water Act.


             The Safe Drinking Water Act, enacted in 1974, required EPAto establish
Background   drinking water standards, covering certain drinking water contami-
             nants, to be met by the nation’s 58,000 community water systems. The
             act also required water systems to monitor the water delivered to con-
             sumers to detect whether it exceeds the standards. EPAgenerally dele-
             gates primary responsibility to the states for enforcing the monitoring
             requirements and drinking water standards and for overseeing commu-
                                                                                                6
             nity water systems. In 1986 Congress amended the act to significantly
             increase the number of contaminants to be regulated, strengthen EPA
             enforcement authority, and establish various other requirements.

             To comply with the program, a water system must collect samples of its
             drinking water and have them tested in an approved laboratory for a
             variety of contaminants. The test results are then reported to the state,
             which analyzes the data to determine whether (1) the system has met its
             monitoring requirements and (2) the water quality has violated a drink-
             ing water standard. The state, in turn, reports violations of monitoring
             requirements and drinking water standards to EPA,which maintains a
             national data base on system compliance.



             Page 2       GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
                   Jbcutlve   Summary




                   Systems with serious and/or chronic problems are deemed to be in “sig-
                   nificant noncompliance” and receive priority attention for enforcement.
                   EPApolicy requires states to take “timely and appropriate” enforcement
                   action against these significant noncompliers. The policy sets specific
                   time frames within which the state must take enforcement action and
                   establishes criteria for what actions qualify as appropriate. If a state
                   does not take timely and appropriate action in a particular case, that
                   water system becomes a target for EPAenforcement.


                   Despite EPAreports that water systems are largely meeting monitoring
Results in Brief   requirements and drinking water standards, GAOfound substantial evi-
                   dence that (1) violations are probably going undetected and unreported
                   by water systems and (2) identified violations are going unreported by
                   states to EPA.Although states have a number of quality assurance mea-
                   sures at their disposal that would alleviate these compliance problems,
                   financial constrairits are leading many to curtail these measures.

                   Based on its detailed review of enforcement cases in six states, GAOalso
                   found that enforcement is often neither timely nor appropriate against
                   significant noncompliers. More important, state enforcement actions are
                   often ineffective in returning these violators to compliance. Of particu-
                   lar concern is that many of the significant violations GAOreviewed, some
                   posing serious health risks, have persisted for years. In some of these
                   cases, states took no enforcement action; in others, enforcement action
                   did not bring about compliance or did so only after lengthy delays. Addi-
                   tional hindrances to a return to compliance include (1) the difficulties
                   small systems have in paying for costly corrective actions and (2) tech-
                   nical barriers such as a lack of alternative water sources.

                   The addition of new regulatory requirements to the drinking water pro-                &
                   gram will make an already complex problem more difficult for EPA,the
                   states, and water systems. EPAestimates, for example, that these new
                   requirements, which will affect nearly all water systems, will add about
                   $2.6 billion in annual compliance costs. With compliance becoming
                   increasingly difficult $01 water systems, EPAand the states are bracing
                   for substantially increased regulatory costs of their own in assisting sys-
                   tems, monitoring systems’ compliance, and taking enforcement action
                   against violators.




                   Page 3          GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
                                Executive Summary




Principal Findings

Considerable                    EPAdata show that the large majority of community water systems com-
Noncompliance                   ply with all drinking water requirements and that only a small percent-
                                age are in significant noncompliance. However, interviews with state
                                and federal program managers and EPAstudies reveal that the number
                                of violations is considerably understated. The reasons reflect problems
                                at the water system, state, and federal levels:

                            . At the water system level, some violations are not detected due to sam-
                              pling error by water system operators. EPAand state officials cite as
                              causes (1) the increasingly technical nature of water sample collection
                              and (2) inadequately trained or inexperienced operators, particularly at
                              small systems. GAOfieldwork in three EPAregions and six states also dis-
                              closed cases of intentional falsification of data, although the full extent
                              of this problem is unclear.
                            l At the state level, EPAstudies show that (1) some identified violations
                              are not reported to EPAand (2) some states have adopted policies sus-
                              pending or restricting certain EPAmonitoring requirements. As a result
                              of the policies, water systems are not performing all required water
                              tests, Both findings were substantiated by GAO'Swork.
                            . At the federal level, EPAlacks key data needed to determine water sys-
                              tem compliance and must rely instead on state tracking systems which,
                              in some cases, are known to be inadequate.

                                Among the most effective tools states use to help ensure compliance are
                                periodic visits to water systems called sanitary surveys. During these
                                surveys, state officials may test water quality, observe operator proce-
                                dures, and/or check the condition of equipment. However, although EPA
                                regulations require the surveys, financial constraints are leading many              a
                                states to cut back on these and other quality assurance activities.


Enforcement Not Timely,         In evaluating state enforcement efforts, GAOreviewed 95 cases of signifi-
Appropriate, or Effective       cant noncompliance in six states and found that states took timely and
                                appropriate enforcement action, as defined by EPApolicy, in only 24
                                cases. Of greater concern is that state efforts to return significant
                                noncompliers to compliance were often ineffective, or succeeded only
                                after years of continuous violation. GAOfound, for example, that 46 of
                                the 95 cases persisted for more than 4 years. While extenuating circum-
                                stances (such as funding constraints among small water systems) help to
                                explain the problem in some instances, in others, states allowed lengthy


                                Page 4         GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
                  F;xecutive Summary




                  delays for voluntary compliance before initiating appropriate enforce-
                  ment action, Where state actions were delayed or ineffective, EPArarely
                  stepped in and exercised its own enforcement authority,

                  Acknowledging the need to improve enforcement, the EPAAdministrator
                  announced in April 1989 that the agency will encourage states to
                  increase the number of enforcement actions to be taken against noncom-
                  plying water systems. As discussed in chapter 3, GAOsupports this pol-
                  icy but emphasizes the need to focus on the quality of such actions-on
                  whether they will achieve compliance.


Impacts of New    As problematic as compliance and enforcement already are, they may
Regulations       become more so in coming years as EPAestablishes new standards and
                  other requirements for water systems. EPAestimates that annual water
                  systems’ costs may increase by $2.5 billion in the coming years. Already
                  faced with funding shortages, states will see their own regulatory costs
                  increase by hundreds of millions of dollars annually. With water sys-
                  tems and states both experiencing increased difficulties implementing
                  the program, EPAalso expects a correspondingly greater burden on its
                  own resources.

                  Ultimately, the program’s success will depend on the ability of systems,
                  states, and EPAto meet these resource needs. In chapter 4, GAO discusses
                  recent EPAinitiatives to deal with the financial problems and cites infor-
                  mation from GAO'Sown review supporting the need for such efforts.


                  Among GAO'Srecommendations in chapter 2 is that the Administrator
Recommendations   improve water systems’ compliance by (1) encouraging more consistent
                  use of state-sponsored operator certification and training programs in
                  order to reduce operator error, (2) improving internal controls to detect
                  and deter intentional falsification of sampling data, and (3) encouraging
                  more consistent implementation by states of sanitary survey programs.
                  GAOalso makes a number of recommendations in chapter 3 to improve
                  compliance through better EPAand state enforcement.


                  GAOdiscussed the facts in this report with EPAofficials, who generally
Agency Comments   agreed with their accuracy. GAOhas included their comments where
            Y     appropriate. However, as requested, GAOdid not obtain official com-
                  ments on a draft of this report.




                  Page 5          GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
Contents


Executive Summary                                                                                    2

Chapter 1                                                                                            8
Introduction          How EPA’s Drinking Water Program Works
                      Objectives, Scope, and Methodology
                                                                                                     9 ’
                                                                                                    10

Chapter 2                                                                                           13
Many Water Systems    EPA’s Statistics Indicate Substantial Compliance
                      Definition of “Significant Noncompliance” Understates
                                                                                                    13
                                                                                                    14
Are Not Complying          Seriousness of Many Compliance Problems
With Monitoring and   Violations Are Going Undetected or Unreported by Water                        17
Contaminant Level          Systems
                      States Are Underreporting Violations to EPA                                  26
Requirements          EPA Data Management Problems                                                 28
                      Conclusions                                                                  29
                      Recommendations                                                              31

Chapter 3                                                                                          33
Enforcement           Safe Drinking Water Act Requirements and EPA
                           Enforcement Policy
                                                                                                   33
Inadequate in         States Rarely Met EPA Enforcement Criteria                                   35
Deterring and         Many Significant Noncompliers Have Remained in                               39
Correcting                 Noncompliance for Years
                      Long-term Significant Noncompliers Often Involve                             40
Noncompliance              Difficult Compliance Issues
                      Conclusions                                                                  48
                      Recommendations                                                              50
                                                                                                           a
Chapter 4                                                                                          51
New Drinking Water    Major Drinking Water Requirements Mandated by the
                          1986 Amendments
                                                                                                   51
Requirements Will     EPA Has Proposed or Promulgated Regulations for Most                         52
PoseAdditional            New Drinking Water Requirements
Compliance and        Resource Constraints Will Increase Compliance and                            52
                          Enforcement Problems
Enforcement           EPA Efforts to Help Water Systems and States Obtain                          58
Challenges                Additional Resources
                      Conclusions                                                                  60




                      Page 6       GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
                                                                                   -
             Contents




Appendixes   Appendix I: Adverse Health Effects Associated With                              62
                 Ingesting Contaminated Drinking Water
             Appendix II: Scope and Methodology for Review of State                          66
                 Enforcement Cases
             Appendix III: Summary of EPA’s Efforts to Issue New                             70
                 Drinking Water Regulations Required by the 1986
                 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act
             Appendix IV: Major Contributors to This Report                                  72

Tables       Table 3.1: State Performance Against EPA Timeliness                             36
                 Criteria
             Table 3.2: Number of Months GAO Review Cases Met SNC                            40
                 Criteria
             Table 4.1: Estimated Annual Costs to Water Systems for                           53
                 Implementing 1986 Amendments to the Safe Drinking
                 Water Act
             Table 4.2: Estimated Initial and Annual Costs to States for                     56
                 Implementing 1986 Amendments to the Safe Drinking
                 Water Act
             Table 1.1: Adverse Health Effects Associated With                               63
                 Drinking Water Contaminants
             Table II. 1: Review Cases by Reporting Category and by                          68
                 State




             Abbreviations

             CDC        Centers for Disease Control
             EPA        Environmental Protection Agency
             GAO        General Accounting Office
             MCL        maximum contaminant level
             SNC        significant noncomplier


             Page 7          GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
Chapter 1
                                                                                                    I
Introduction


               Most Americans take the availability of safe drinking water supplies for
               granted. In the United States over the past several decades, improved
               treatment practices and drinking water regulations have virtually elimi-
               nated such diseases as typhoid and cholera and have reduced the inci-
               dence of other debilitating diseases. However, outbreaks of some
               diseases, such as giardiasis, continue to occur. According to the Centers
               for Disease Control (cDc),~ 485 disease outbreaks caused by the ingestion
               of contaminated water,” involving over 110,000 individuals, were
               reported to state and local health authorities between 1971 and 1985.
               Moreover, CDCand Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials esti-
               mated that the actual number of such outbreaks is 20 to 80 percent more
               than the number reported because contaminated drinking water is often
               not suspected as the cause of illness.

               Perhaps of greater significance are the long-term adverse health effects
               caused by ingesting contaminated drinking water. EPA and CDC research-
               ers have found that over time, some drinking water contaminants can
               damage the liver, kidneys, heart, and other body organs. While uncer-
               tainty exists about the potential long-term effects of certain contami-
               nants, health and environmental officials are concerned that prolonged
               consumption of some contaminants, even at low levels, can cause cancer,
               leukemia, and other serious health problems.

               To protect the public from these risks, the Safe Drinking Water Act,
               enacted in 1974, required EPAto establish (1) standards or treatment
               techniques for contaminants that could adversely affect human health
               and (2) requirements for monitoring the quality of drinking water sup-
               plies and for ensuring the proper operation and maintenance of water
               systems. To oversee the program, states assuming “primacy” (responsi-
               bility) would, with EPA’S oversight, assess compliance with these stan-
               dards and requirements and take enforcement action when warranted.                                        a
               If necessary, EPA would step in with its own enforcement, as detailed
               under the act’s federal enforcement procedures.

               By the mid-1980s however, EPA had not regulated many contaminants,
               and had not revised most interim drinking water regulations, which had

               ‘An agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC is responsible for,
               among other things, identifying and defining preventable health problems, surveilling diseases, and
               developing and applying disease prevention and control.

               ‘As defined by CDC and EPA officials, an outbreak occurs when two or more persons experience a
               similar illness after ingesting drinking water and evidence implicates the water as the source of sick-
               ness A single case of chemical poisoning constitutes an outbreak if evidence shows that the water has
               been contaminated by the chemical.



               Page 8             GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
  ,
                      Chapter 1
                      Introduction




                      been in effect since 1977. Compliance with drinking water requirements
                      was uneven, with the most problems occurring at small community
                      water systems serving nearly 25 million people, or approximately 11
                      percent of the nation’s population. Congress amended the act in 1986 to
                      (1) establish deadlines to accelerate EPA'Sefforts to set standards, (2)
                      establish a monitoring program for certain unregulated contaminants,
                      (3) require EPAto issue criteria for determining which surface water sys-
                      tems must filter their supplies, and (4) require disinfection of all public
                      water systems. The act also gave EPAnew authority to ensure timely and
                      effective enforcement of all drinking water regulations.


                      Under the drinking water program, EPAand the states rely heavily on
How EPA’s Drinking    water systems:’ to demonstrate compliance with monitoring require-
Water Program Works   ments and with water quality standards called “maximum contaminant
                      levels” (MCI,). To meet monitoring requirements, the water system opera-
                      tor periodically must collect water samples at the locations and frequen-
                      cies specified by WA and have the samples tested in an approved
                      1aboratory:l The frequency of required monitoring varies depending on
                      the contaminant, the water source (surface water or groundwater), and,
                      in some instances, the size of the population served. Some states test the
                      system’s water directly, at least for a portion of the contaminants being
                      monitored.

                      The test results are then reported to the state, which (1) determines
                      whether the system has met its monitoring and reporting requirements
                      and (2) analyzes the test data to determine whether the system has vio-
                      lated any drinking water standard. If violations have occurred, the stat,e
                      is responsible for taking enforcement action, giving priority to systems
                      deemed to be in “significant noncompliance.” As detailed in chapter 2,
                      such a designation is based on the frequency and/or magnitude of viola-                                6
                      tions. EPApolicy requires states to take timely and appropriate enforcc-
                      ment action against significant noncompliers (SNC), and to that end
                      establishes time frames for such action and criteria for determining
                      what actions qualify as appropriate. EPAis responsible for taking
                      enforcement action in cases where the state does not take such action.


                      “As defined in the act, a public water system provides piped water for human consumption and musl
                      have at least 1R scrvicc connections or regularly serve at least 26 individuals.

                      ‘To be approved, testing laboratories must demonstrate to EPA or the states that they arc capable of
                      performing the analytical measurements required in the drinking water program and obtaining accu-
                      rate results.



                      Page 9             GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
                            Chapter1
                            Introduction




                            States report to EPAviolations of monitoring and/or water quality
                            requirements by systems, and whether they took timely and appropriate
                            enforcement action against SNCS.As part of its oversight responsibility,
                            EPAmaintains a national data base on system compliance and publishes
                            national compliance statistics.


                            Citing the importance of safe drinking water to public health, the Chair-
Objectives, Scope,and       man, Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Subcommittee, House
Methodology                 Committee on Government Operations, asked GAOto assess EPAand state
                            implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act program. Based on the
                            Chairman’s initial request and our subsequent discussions with his
                            office, GAOagreed to

                        9 determine the extent of community water systems’ compliance with
                          monitoring requirements and drinking water standards under the act;
                        . evaluate EPAand state enforcement actions to bring violators into com-
                          pliance; and
                        l determine the status of EPAefforts to set standards for contaminants
                          specified in the 1986 Safe Drinking Water Act amendments, and the
                          effect those standards and other new requirements will have on the
                          program.

                            We performed the bulk of our work at the Office of Drinking Water, at
                            EPAheadquarters; three EPAregional offices, and two state drinking
                            water program offices in each of the three EPAregions. Choosing EPA
                            regions for geographical diversity, we selected Regions I, VI, and X,
                            headquartered respectively in Boston, Massachusetts; Dallas, Texas; and
                            Seattle, Washington. Within the regions we also conducted fieldwork in
                            Massachusetts and Vermont, in Region I, Oklahoma and Texas, in Region
                            VI, and Oregon and Washington, in Region X. Our review focused on                                    b
                            community water systems, which are the primary source of drinking
                            water for most Americans, The review did not address noncommunity
                            water systems.”

                            To obtain information for this review, we collected (1) documents on
                            specific compliance problems, the procedures used to identify and report
                            violations, and enforcement cases; (2) EPAregulatory and economic

                            “Community water systems primarily serve year-round residents, while noncommunity water sys-
                            tems, operating at sites such as campgrounds, lodges, and other public accommodations, serve tran-
                            sients or intermittent users at least 60 days out of the year. For an assessment of EPA’s
                            noncommunitv water svstem orogram in Redon III, see the EPA Office of the Inspector General’s
                            report Nonco&munity kater System Program (ElfiW7-03-0171431928, Sept. 26,.1988).



                            Page 10            GAO/RCED-90.127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
ChaPtM    1
Introduction




impact analyses; and (3) Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act
reports (also prepared by EPA). The Financial Integrity Act reports pro-
vided information on internal control weaknesses in processing and
reporting water system compliance data.

We also performed a number of activities to respond to each of the three
objectives. To respond to the first objective, we interviewed state and
federal program managers and reviewed documents on state quality
assurance and internal control programs intended to ensure that water
systems comply with drinking water requirements and accurately report
compliance data to the state. To assess the reliability of national compli-
ance statistics, we (1) analyzed EPAregional studies on the accuracy of
the compliance data states report to EPAand (2) studied how EPA'Sdata
management system identifies significant noncompliers. In addition, we
asked state and EPAofficials about the extent to which they believe
water system operators file test results that are erroneous or falsified
and about the measures they are taking to detect and deter these
practices.

For the second objective, we examined state and EPAenforcement poli-
cies and procedures, including EPAcriteria on how states should address
systems in significant noncompliance with the act’s regulations. To test
the states’ enforcement performance, we reviewed 95 cases of signifi-
cant noncompliance at 75 community water systems located in six
states. We designed our review to include all possible types of cases,
including those in which the water system returned to compliance, cases
involving enforcement action, and pending cases. Individual review
cases within each category were randomly selected. We reviewed the
states’ files on the selected cases in detail and interviewed state program
managers about enforcement actions and other efforts to return the
water systems to full compliance. Where necessary, we followed up on
selected cases with EPAregional officials.

We chose 1987 as the base year for this review because we wanted to
include cases that were initiated after EPA'Senforcement policy was
implemented in October 1986. In addition, we wanted SNCviolations that
were as recent as possible without being so new that one would not
expect the states to have responded. We decided that selecting SNCviola-
tions identified during 1987 would allow sufficient time for state and
EPAenforcement actions to occur. We reviewed these actions through
May 1989. We called each state to update our information as to whether
systems that were still in significant noncompliance as of May 1989
remained so as of February 1990. Our results represent only the cases


Page 11        GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
--    --                                                                              -
                                                                          (
     Chapter 1
     Introduction




     reviewed and not all significant noncompliance cases nationwide. (See
     app. II for a detailed description of our methodology in selecting the
     enforcement cases.)

     For the third objective, we interviewed officials in EPA'SOffice of Drink-
     ing Water to determine the status and implications of EPAefforts to set
     additional drinking water standards and implement other requirements
     contained in the 1986 Safe Drinking Water Act amendments. To obtain
     additional information on the impact of these activities on the program,
     we also interviewed EPAregional water program officials, drinking water
     program officials in the six states, and representatives from the Associ-
     ation of State Drinking Water Administrators, the American Water
     Works Association, and the League of Women Voters. We also reviewed
     EPAregulatory and economic impact analyses for promulgated and pro-
     posed drinking water regulations and examined impact studies con-
     ducted by the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators and
     the League.

     Our audit work was conducted between July 1988 and March 1990 in
     accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
     During our review, we discussed our audit findings with EPAofficials
     responsible for implementing and enforcing the Safe Drinking Water Act
     program, and have incorporated their comments where appropriate.
     However, in accordance with the wishes of the requester’s office, we did
     not solicit formal comments from EPAon a draft of this report.




     Page 12        GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
Chapter 2

Many Water SystemsAre Not Complying With
Monitoring and Contaminant
Level Requirements
                           Despite EPAreports showing that community water systems are largely
                           complying with drinking water requirements, the extent of compliance
                           has been considerably overstated. Part of this discrepancy can be
                           explained by how EPAdistinguishes between “significant” violators and
                           the much larger universe of other violators. We found that under EPA'S
                           criteria, violations not classified as significant can include cases of
                           chronic noncompliance with monitoring requirements and instances
                           where MCLSare exceeded by substantial margins.

                           In addition to this definitional issue, we found deficiencies in the detec-
                           tion and reporting of violations at each major point in the regulatory
                           process, from the time a system samples its water supply to the time EI'A
                           records the system’s compliance status in its national data base. Specifi-
                           cally, we found deficiencies at the water system, state, and federal
                           levels.

                       l At the water system level: Some violations are probably going unde-
                         tected because of errors in the way system operators take and test water
                         samples. We also found instances where test results were intentionally
                         falsified, although the extent of this problem is unclear. While states can
                         take certain internal control and quality assurance measures to increase
                         water system compliance, such measures are sometimes not imple-
                         mented effectively, or not implemented at all.
                       . At the state level: States, for a variety of reasons, are not reporting
                         some water system violations to EPA.The existence of state and regional
                         policies that revise or suspend certain EPAmonitoring requirements con-
                         tributes fundamentally to the problem of underreporting.
                       . At the federal level: EPAlacks key information needed to determine
                         water system compliance and must rely instead on state tracking sys-
                         tems In the absence of such information, the agency’s data management
                         system sometimes produces incomplete or overstated compliance rates.                 1,


                           EPA'Sannual statistics disclose the number of water systems that comply
EPA’s Statistics           fully with drinking water requirements, systems classified as SNCS,and
Indicate Substantial       “other noncompliers” that have at least one violation and whose
Compliance                 problems are not serious enough to cause the systems to be classified as
                           SNCS.Using fiscal year 1988 statistics, the most recent year for which
                           complete statistics are available, EPAestimated that (1) 72 percent of all
                           community water systems had no reported violations, (2) only 2 percent
                           of community water systems were classified as SNCS,and (3) about one
                           quarter of the water systems were identified as “other noncompliers”-



                           Page 13       GAO/RCED90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
                              Chapter 2
                              Many Water Systema Are Not Complying
                              With Monitoring and Ckmtaminant
                              Level Requirements




                              a relatively small percentage considering that a single violation of only
                              one requirement would warrant such a classification,

                              Such statistics would appear to indicate that most water systems are
                              monitoring their water and meeting quality standards as required and
                              that the large majority of violations that do occur are not serious. How-
                              ever, as discussed in the remainder of this chapter, (1) the criteria EPA
                              uses to distinguish between SNCSand other violators minimizes some
                              potentially serious problems and (2) the number of water systems
                              reported to be in full compliance may be overstated by a significant
                              margin, reflecting problems at the water system, state, and federal
                              levels.


                              According to EPAprogram managers, the criteria for significant noncom-
Definition of                 pliance were established to focus limited enforcement resources on the
“Significant                  systems with the worst problems. However, the narrowness of this defi-
Nokompliance”                 nition has excluded substantially more systems with serious and/or
                              chronic compliance problems.
Understates
Seriousnessof Many
Compliance Problems

SomeViolators Not             Community water systems may be classified as SNCSdepending on either
Classified as “Significant”   (1) the frequency with which they violate program requirements or (2)
                              the severity of their violations (e.g., the extent to which they exceed a
Nonetheless Have Serious      contaminant level). For one contaminant group, for example, water sys-
Problems                      tems are required to sample for microbiological and turbidity contami-
                                                                                                                                    4
                              nants and meet MCL requirements on a monthly basis.’ A system that
                              violates MCL requirements for 4 or more months during any 12-month
                              period would be classified as in significant noncompliance, as would a
                              system that fails to conduct any required monitoring for 12 consecutive
                              months. EPAalso employs an”aggregate” criterion for significant non-
                              compliance, which encompasses water systems with any combination of
                              monitoring or MCLviolations for 12 consecutive months.

                              ‘Microbiological contaminants, such as bacteria, may cause acute health effects, including gas-
                              troenteritis, diarrhea, and hepatitis. Some of the smallest water systems may be allowed to sample
                              their water for microbiological contaminants quarterly instead of monthly, and others sample
                              monthly, but determine compliance with the MCL requirement quarterly. High levels of turbidity,
                              which is a “cloudiness” in water caused by minute suspended particles, may reduce the efficiency of
                              disinfection treatment and mask the presence of microbiological contaminants. Turbidity require-
                              ments apply only to water systems that obtain their water from surface sources.



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        However, under such a restrictive definition, water systems with serious
        and/or chronic compliance problems may be classified as “other,” or
        “nonsignificant,” noncompliers. For the same contaminant group
        described above, for example, a system may have three violations of MCL
        requirements within 12 months-or fail to take any samples for as
        many as 11 months out of 12-and still not be considered a significant
        noncomplier. Similarly, a system may have a combination of three MCL
        violations plus eight monitoring violations within a 12-month period and
        still not be classified as a significant noncomplier.

        The SNCcriteria for chemical and radiological contaminants also leave
        room for serious violations that EPAwould not classify as significant. In
        general, a water system is considered to be in violation if its test results
        exceed the MCL for a contaminant. However, for each chemical and
        radiological contaminant, EPAhas established “SNC levels” that deter-
        mine when a violation warrants classification as an SNC.Although for
        some contaminants, the MCL and the SNClevels are the same, for others,
        the SNClevel may far exceed the MCL. For example, a nitrate violation is
        considered to be significant noncompliance if the test result exceeds 200
        percent of the MCL, while the SNClevel for a selenium violation is 500
        percent of the MCL.

        To find out more about the violators classified as other noncompliers,
        we asked EPA'SOffice of Drinking Water to break down its compliance
        data for microbiological and turbidity contaminants. These statistics
        confirm that many water systems categorized as other noncompliers
        appear to have serious compliance problems. For example, we found
        that although only 134 water systems were identified as SNCSbecause
        they had four or more microbiological MCLviolations within a 12-month
        period, 602 systems had three within the same period.
                                                                                              a
        Thus, a considerable number of water systems have violations that may
        be serious but would not cause them to be categorized as SNCSunder
        EPA'Scriteria. The distinction between SNCSand other noncompliers is
        important because, as discussed in the next section, the SNCcriteria were
        established based on available enforcement resources and have tradi-
        tionally accounted for the majority of EPAenforcement targets.




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                                 .-Ii           ..,
                                             ,. ” ,
                                 ‘;;yY
                                         ’
                            Chapter 2
                            Many Water Systems Are Not Complying
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                            Level Requirements




SNC Criteria Largely        Although EPAencourages states to take action against other violators,
                            SNCS have been the primary focus of EPA'Senforcement policy and track-
Determined by               ing system and state enforcement goals. According to EPAdrinking water
Enforcement Resources       officials, when the agency developed its SNC criteria in the mid-1980s, its
Rather Than Public Health   major consideration was controlling the enforcement work load. Public
Considerations              health was also considered, but only to the extent that the criteria
                            allowed states to focus their limited enforcement resources on the worst
                            problems. The SNC criteria replaced an earlier classification of high pri-
                            ority violators called “persistent violators.”

                            The shift to SNCS did cut the number of high priority enforcement
                            targets considerably. For example, the officials estimated that under the
                            previous criteria, 6,000 to 7,000 “persistent” violators of microbiological
                            and turbidity requirements were identified in fiscal year 1984. However,
                            when the new SNC criteria were applied to fiscal year 1985 violations in
                            the comparable contaminant category, the number of SNCS dropped to
                            approximately 2,000.

                            While we agree that it makes sense to set priorities for enforcement
                            when resources are scarce, EPA'Scurrent SNC criteria minimize the num-
                            ber of potentially serious problems that may be targeted for enforce-
                            ment action. Officials with EPA'SOffice of Drinking Water acknowledge
                            that the SNC criteria need to be expanded, explaining the need in part by
                            the fact that in some regions, few systems meet the existing criteria. One
                            manager added that the lack of SNCS in a particular region does not indi-
                            cate a lack of water systems with serious problems. In his view,
                            expanding the SNC criteria will help EPAavoid the appearance that the
                            program is not addressing all serious problems.

                            In April 1989 EPAestablished a national work group to consider possible
                            changes to its SNC criteria to better reflect public health considerations.           a
                            According to an October 1989 proposal issued by the work group, a
                            number of the changes under consideration will have the effect of
                            increasing the number of high priority enforcement targets. The work
                            group also proposed a three-tiered system for categorizing violations
                            and prioritizing enforcement targets, with the first tier including SNC
                            violations and representing the top enforcement priority. The second
                            tier would include violations that are serious but that have not yet
                            reached the SNC level, and the third tier would contain all other viola-
                            tions. WA plans to complete the redefinition of SNC criteria by the end of
                            fiscal year 1990.




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                         Beyond the issue of how EPAcategorizes known violations, we found evi-
Violations Are Going     dence suggesting that violations are either not being detected at all by
Undetected or            water systems or are being detected but are not being reported. As noted
Unreported by Water      in chapter 1, states vary as to how much they rely on water system
                         operators to collect and analyze water samples and then report the
Systems                  results to state drinking water authorities. Where water systems, and
                         not states, are responsible for sample collection, the potential for
                         obtaining inaccurate information is greater-particularly     in the case of
                         smaller water systems, which are less likely to have trained full-time
                         operators.

                         Based on our discussions with program managers in the six state pro-
                         grams, it appears that violations are, in fact, going undetected because
                         of unintentional errors in the way system operators take and test water
                         samples. The program managers also identified instances of intentional
                         falsification of test results, although most states do not actively monitor
                         the extent of this problem.


Unintentional Sampling   To obtain test results that accurately reflect water quality, sample col-
Error by Water System    lectors must follow exacting procedures established by EPAand state
                         regulatory agencies. Consequently, sampling is best done by trained
Operators                individuals who understand how to take the samples and interpret the
                         results. Untrained collectors are more likely to produce invalid test
                         results.

                         EPAand state program managers told us about a number of circum-
                         stances that may lead to errors by water system operators. In the case
                         of turbidity, for example, inaccurate readings may result if on-site test
                         equipment is not regularly calibrated or maintained. In the case of some
                         organic compounds that are volatile and may dissipate in the air, inaccu-
                                                                                                               b
                         rate readings may result unless the sample collector seals the container
                         properly, making sure that it contains no air bubbles and is not exposed
                         to sunlight or high temperatures.

                         These officials expressed concern about operator sampling technique
                         and the accuracy of the test results. For the most part, they attributed
                         potential problems to inadequate operator training and the lack of full-
                         time operators or the high turnover among operators at small water sys-
                         tems. They also indicated that errors will increase as additional MCI, and




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                                                  :,.
                                                ,:,      :,                                          ‘,
Chapter 2
Many Water Systems Are Not Complying
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Level Requirements




other requirements are implemented as a result of the 1986 Safe Drink-
ing Water Act amendments. They explained that under these require-
ments, more contaminants will be regulated and that many will require
increasingly sophisticated sample collection procedures.

EPA region X officials, for example, told us that while the quality of labo-
ratory analysis in the region is generally good, they are not confident
that operators are using proper sample collection techniques and attrib-
uted the problem to insufficient training. Despite these concerns, how-
ever, the officials note there is little evidence that this problem affects
public health. Program managers in Oregon and Washington confirmed
that some system operators lack adequate training in key functions such
as proper sample collection and maintenance. They indicated that opera-
tors of small systems are particularly likely to lack training, and Wash-
ington officials said that high turnover among these operators is an
additional complicating factor.

Operator sampling error is also a concern in New England because
approximately 75 percent of the water systems there serve 500 people
or less. According to an EPA region I manager, small systems have the
most difficulty attracting trained operators and all too often, the person
who takes the samples and performs other tasks is “whoever happens to
be around.”

In contrast, EPA region VI officials were fairly confident about their com-
pliance data because the states collect many samples themselves. These
officials told us that most region VI states collect organic and inorganic
chemical samples themselves. Until recently, Louisiana even collected
the microbiological samples for its water systems. However, the officials
said that resource constraints resulting from implementation of the 1986                               4
amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act may require some states to
turn over these activities to system operators, perhaps increasing
problems with compliance data. According to a Louisiana program man-
ager, about 2 years ago resource constraints forced the state to establish
a fee system to help pay for state sample collection. Then, because the
fees were inadequate to cover costs (a situation exacerbated by the 1986
amendments), the state revised its regulations to require system opera-
tors to collect their own samples as of July 1, 1990.” Texas officials also

“However, water system operators were very concerned about the impact this would have on their
own operating costs; the Louisiana Municipal Association filed suit on their behalf and obtained an
injunction preventing the state from implementing the new regulations. As of March 1990, state offi-
cials were debating a major budget increase for the drinking water program, which would provide
sufficient funds for continued state sample collection.



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                                 told us that as the provisions of the 1986 amendments begin to take
                                 effect, it will be difficult for the state to continue collecting samples
                                 without additional resources.

More ConsistentUse of Operator   Operator certification and training programs can be an effective means
Certification and Training       of preventing operator sampling error. These programs are intended to
ProgramsCould Help Reduce        ensure that water systems are operated and maintained by qualified
Operator Error                   individuals, sampling techniques are properly employed, and the pro-
                                 gram generally complies with drinking water regulations. Several years
                                 ago, EPARegion VI conducted an informal study, comparing small sys-
                                 tems with and without certified operators, to assess the impact of certi-
                                 fied operators on small water system compliance. The study found more
                                 compliance problems at systems lacking certified operators than at
                                 those having them. A study conducted in Utah, analyzing legislation to
                                 convert the state’s voluntary operator certification program to a manda-
                                 tory one, obtained similar results.

                                 However, according to an Office of Drinking Water official, there is no
                                 national operator certification program or any regulation requiring
                                 states to have such programs themselves. Although information from
                                 the Association of Boards of Certification” shows that 45 states have
                                 mandatory operator certification programs and 2 others have voluntary
                                 programs, the same organization collected data indicating that at least
                                 11 states exempt systems serving 500 people or fewer from having certi-
                                 fied operators. An EPAofficial told us that other states use different cri-
                                 teria, such as the number of service connections, to exempt small water
                                 systems from operator certification. These exemptions are significant
                                 because over 60 percent of all community water systems nationwide
                                 serve 500 people or fewer.

                                 Within the three EPAregions we visited, we found that all but one of the                                 4
                                 states have some type of operator certification program, although the
                                 requirements vary considerably.4 Consistent with EPA’S findings, our
                                 findings show that some states exempt small water systems from opera-
                                 tor certification requirements because (1) the requirements are consid-
                                 ered unnecessarily burdensome and (2) the smallest systems are often
                                 operated by part-time employees or volunteers and cannot attract or

                                 “The Association of Boards of Certification seeks to improve certification laws and promote certifica-
                                 tion as a means of ensuring effective operations by personnel of water utilities and pollution control
                                 systems. The organization assists certifying authorities to develop strong administrative programs
                                 and effective uniform certification criteria and standards.

                                 ‘Within EPA Region I, Rhode Island does not require its water systems to have certified operators.



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pay for an operator who meets all qualifications. Although the percent-
age of the population served by these systems is low, small water sys-
tems can represent a significant proportion of the total number of water
systems. For example, systems serving 500 people or fewer account for
76 percent of Louisiana’s systems and 90 percent of New Mexico’s.

System operators’ compliance with operator certification requirements
also varies considerably from state to state. Although both Oklahoma
and Washington officials estimate compliance levels to be over 90 per-
cent, the Vermont program manager estimates that fewer than 5 percent
of the state’s community water systems have certified operators. He told
us, however, that with recent legislation strengthening the state’s
authority to enforce the requirement, the state expects to have all sys-
tem operators certified by 1993. Massachusetts’ compliance rate is about
50 percent, with small systems largely accounting for the problem. Mas-
sachusetts officials explained that the certification program is managed
outside of the state environmental agency by a state Board of Certifica-
tion, which, in their view, has neither the staff nor the expertise to
properly certify all water system operators. Massachusetts program
officials introduced legislation to bring the certification program under
their control, thus allowing them to administer and enforce the require-
ments, but it was not enacted.

Under recently issued EPAregulations, all surface water systems are
required to have operators that are “approved” to the satisfaction of
the state. However, according to an Office of Drinking Water official, EPA
has not established any minimum qualifications for water system opera-
tors; it will be up to the states to determine what they consider
acceptable.

In addition to providing the training associated with operator certifica-
tion programs, some states have developed special training initiatives
that focus on small water systems because these systems tend to have
the most compliance problems. Organizations such as the American
Water Works Association and the National Rural Water Association also
sponsor some training activities. However, no requirements exist for
states to conduct training programs, and resource constraints often limit
the frequency and content of the training that is provided. Moreover,
with the addition of increasingly technical drinking water regulations
pursuant to the 1986 amendments, training will need to become more
widespread and comprehensive as the program itself grows in
complexity.



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Falsification of Data or       Water system compliance is likely to be overstated not only because vio-
Manipulation of Samples        lations caused by operators’ sampling errors go undetected, but also
                               because some operators may be deliberately falsifying test results, How
                               often this practice happens is unclear, however, because most states do
                               not actively seek it out. While most EPAand state officials we inter-
                               viewed stated they do not believe data falsification is extensive, they
                               did tell us that (1) falsifying test results is relatively easy, (2) incentives
                               to do so will increase, and (3) they had already identified suspected
                               instances of falsification.

                               Data falsification occurs when water system operators intentionally
                               compromise their compliance data to make it appear that they have
                               done the required sampling and that water quality is within acceptable
                               limits. Program officials described several methods of falsification:

                           . Although most water samples are analyzed in approved laboratories,
                             system operators often have control over sample collection and thus
                             have an opportunity to influence test results. One way for water system
                             operators to ensure that test results are within acceptable limits is to
                             take samples from sources known to be free of contamination.
                           . Although system operators are supposed to take daily water samples for
                             turbidity, test them using on-site equipment, and report the results to
                             the state at the end of each month, the operators can simply report plau-
                             sible test results without ever actually testing their water.
                           l To falsify microbiological tests, operators can take measures to elimi-
                             nate any contamination before the sample is tested. For example, boiling
                             or microwaving the sample will kill bacteria, as will rinsing the
                             container with chlorine prior to collection of the sample.

                               EPAand state officials acknowledge that water system operators have
                               several incentives to falsify compliance data: for instance, to avoid hav-            b
                               ing to employ costly corrective treatment or having to notify the public
                               that its drinking water is contaminated. In an illustrative case, detected
                               by EPAregion I officials, one operator falsified data so that his system
                               would not have to treat its water. In 1988 EPAdetermined that the oper-
                               ator of a Vermont surface water system had reported exactly the same
                               test results for turbidity every day for months, despite storms, seasonal
                               changes, and other factors that normally affect turbidity levels. There-
                               fore, regional officials observed the system operator for several days
                               and verified that the operator was neither taking nor analyzing samples.
                               In addition, EPAtook and analyzed samples and found that several
                               exceeded the MCL.



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    When confronted with this information, the operator admitted he took
    samples only 2 or 3 days per month but reported daily tests. He
    explained to EPArepresentatives that despite several meetings at which
    state officials expressed concern about the system’s lack of filtration,
    the local water department board had strongly resisted employing such
    treatment. According to the operator, he realized that low turbidity
    results would help the department avoid having to install a filtration
    system. In December 1988 EPAissued a notice of violation that cited the
    system’s failure to comply with turbidity monitoring requirements since
    January 1979. Additional legal action is underway.

    While most of the EPAand state officials we interviewed said that such
    problems are not widespread, they all cited cases in which data falsifica-
    tion had been detected or was strongly suspected. For example, program
    managers in all six states had identified cases in which reported turbid-
    ity results were too consistent to be credible. In Oklahoma and Texas,
    program managers estimated that from 3 to 5 percent of the surface
    water systems may have falsified data. Oklahoma and Oregon managers
    also cited instances in which system operators had dosed microbiological
    samples with chlorine in an attempt to eliminate bacteria.

    State officials provided other examples of questionable practices that
    would lower the number of reported violations, including the following:

. In Oregon, state officials cited cases in which system operators repeat-
  edly took turbidity samples until they found one complying with stan-
  dards; the systems then reported only the satisfactory result to the
  state. According to these officials, they have been informed by testing
  laboratory representatives that this practice also occurs with other
  contaminants.                                                                           6
l When Oklahoma officials investigated one system with suspiciously con-
  sistent turbidity results, the operator said that his predecessor told him
  to take a water sample, “hold it up to the light, and if it looks pretty
  clear, give it a .3.” He was also told not to report a result over 1 (the
  MCL) under any circumstances.

    While EPAand state officials asserted that such problems are not wide-
    spread, we found relatively few efforts among them to actively seek out
    the problems. An EPAregion X official acknowledged that state efforts to
    detect data falsification occur haphazardly. He noted that state officials
    identify such cases if they notice incongruous or overly consistent test
    results and if they have sufficient resources to follow up on them. Wash-
    ington officials agreed that part of the reason they have not identified a


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                        larger number of definitive cases of data falsification is that the state
                        has not had the resources to investigate suspicious data. Similarly, pro-
                        gram managers in several other states told us that they investigate only
                        if they notice suspicious data or receive consumer complaints about
                        poor quality water.

                        Still, we did identify a few limited efforts among the states we visited to
                        identify data falsification systematically. An EPAregion I enforcement
                        official obtained, from the Vermont program office, special computer
                        printouts that flagged systems whose turbidity results showed little or
                        no variation. He then determined whether the test results were logical in
                        light of the systems’ condition and other factors. In addition to identify- I
                        ing the case described earlier in this section, the official identified 13
                        others in the region warranting further investigation. Oklahoma and
                        Texas systematically review monthly turbidity reports to identify ques-
                        tionable data. In addition, Oklahoma’s program manager told us that
                        testing laboratories in the state periodically analyze microbiological
                        samples to detect the presence of excess chlorine, since adding chlorine
                        can disguise microbiological contamination problems.

                        We found nothing in our review to suggest that the majority of water
                        system operators do not make a good faith effort to comply with pro-
                        gram requirements. However, based on the information obtained during
                        our state visits, data falsification may be occurring more frequently
                        than either EPAor state officials suspect. Moreover, as discussed in chap-
                        ter 4, the incentives to do so will increase as water systems are required
                        to comply with the broader and more stringent requirements in the 1986
                        amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Accordingly, we believe
                        that EPA needs to encourage these types of efforts to detect and deter
                        data falsification to ensure the credibility of self-monitoring under the
                        program.                                                                              CL


Sanitary Surveys Are    According to EPAand state officials, comprehensive inspections of water
Often Not Implemented   systems, or sanitary surveys, are among the most important tools states
                        can use to help ensure water system compliance with drinking water
Effectively             requirements. In addition to being an overall review of the facility and
                        its operations, sanitary surveys provide states an opportunity to con-
                        duct specific activities that may reduce the potential for both operator
                        sampling error and falsified test results. Such activities may include
                        sampling the water, observing the system operator’s sampling and test-
                        ing procedures, reviewing collection procedures to ensure the operator



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                             understands them, and checking the system’s turbidity test equipment
                             to ensure its proper calibration and functioning.

                             EPAregulations also emphasize the importance of sanitary surveys,
                             requiring them as a condition for states to obtain primacy. However, the
                             regulations do not specify what states must do during the surveys or
                             how often states must conduct them. As discussed in this section, we
                             found that sanitary survey programs can vary widely in both frequency
                             and content and that resource constraints are substantially affecting
                             many of these programs.

State Emphasis on Sanitary   Both Texas and Oklahoma place strong emphasis on sanitary surveys,
Surveys Varies               conducting them the most frequently of the six states we visited. In both
                             states, survey results are directly linked to enforcement, thus reinforc-
                             ing the importance of ensuring that water systems are properly
                             designed, operated, and maintained. Texas officials told us that they
                             conduct comprehensive surveys of surface water systems annually and
                             groundwater systems biannually. They believe that sanitary surveys are
                             the most important tool in ensuring safe drinking water and that peri-
                             odic sampling only reveals “the tip of the iceberg” about water quality.
                             In Oklahoma, sanitary surveys are conducted more frequently than in
                             Texas, but are somewhat less comprehensive.

                             According to EPAregion VI officials, although all six states within the
                             region have emphasized sanitary surveys, the need to emphasize compli-
                             ance monitoring and enforcement activities will move states away from
                             sanitary surveys and other quality assurance efforts. In Louisiana,
                             financial problems have forced the state to make severe cutbacks in its
                             sanitary survey activities; the number of comprehensive surveys has
                             been reduced by more than two-thirds and the briefer inspection-type
                             surveys have been eliminated almost entirely.

                             According to region X officials, region X states’ sanitary survey pro-
                             grams have also been affected by limited resources and the increased
                             emphasis on enforcement. The Washington program manager told us
                             that his state has not conducted routine sanitary surveys since the late
                             1970s. Although the state does maintain a field presence through spe-
                             cial-purpose investigations, these reviews generally focus on a specific
                             problem and do not entail a comprehensive system review. The Wash-
                             ington manager told us that the lack of sanitary surveys is the most
                             glaring weakness in the state’s drinking water program.




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Similarly, Oregon’s program managers told us that the state has been
conducting sanitary surveys on a 3-year cycle but cannot meet this time
frame any longer. According to the fiscal year 1989 state/EPA agree-
ment, Oregon now plans to survey its water systems once every 5 years.
Here, too, state officials pointed to the lack of resources as the underly-
ing cause of the cutback.

A program manager in EPARegion I told us that all of the New England
states are having financial problems and that a reduction in the fre-
quency of sanitary surveys is among the effects. In Massachusetts, pro-
gram officials told us that they survey every water system at least once
every 3 years. Their goal is to conduct a “short-form” review at each
system annually and a comprehensive review every 3 years. Currently,
the state conducts approximately 50 comprehensive reviews and 100
shorter ones each year. In Vermont, according to state officials, the state
reviews groundwater systems every 3 years and surface water systems
annually.

Thus, while some states’ sanitary survey programs appear to be compre-
hensive, other states’ surveys are either less comprehensive or have
been discontinued altogether. Although most program managers agree
on the value of sanitary surveys as a quality assurance tool, recent
resource cutbacks have made it increasingly necessary to reduce or elim-
inate this program element. According to a 1988 review of the costs of
implementing the 1986 Safe Drinking Water Act amendments, the single
largest expenditure in state drinking water programs is for water sys-
tem inspections and sanitary surveys.” Although 43 percent of the
respondents cited inspections/sanitary surveys as the most important
program activity for ensuring the safety of water supplies and protect-
ing public health, 75 percent of the respondents indicated that they
were likely to reduce this activity unless they receive additional                                        1,
resources to implement new regulatory requirements.

EPA’Sdilemma is that while sanitary surveys are required as a condition
of retaining primacy, the agency is reluctant to “force the issue” in the
wake of state funding problems. When asked whether states that have
discontinued their sanitary surveys, such as Washington, are violating
EPAregulations, an official with EPA’SOffice of Drinking Water stated
that because EPAhas not established any requirements or criteria for

“EPA and the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators conducted a joint survey in 1988
and issued a report in June 1989. A total of 36 states and one territory responded to the association’s
questionnaire,



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                    how frequently these reviews must be conducted, the states might not
                    be in technical violation as long as they have conducted sanitary
                    surveys at some point. This approach, however, seems to reflect a policy
                    of “looking the other way” at state noncompliance with the requirement
                    for sanitary surveys. We believe that this policy not only contravenes
                    the spirit of EPA’S own requirement, but is ill-advised in light of the qual-
                    ity assurance these programs provide. As discussed in chapter 4, to the
                    extent that EPAcan assist states in dealing with the resource issue, sani-
                    tary survey programs may be salvaged and a valuable quality assurance
                    tool preserved. However, the first step is for EPA to clarify its regulatory
                    requirement to make plain when sanitary surveys are required and how
                    they should be conducted.


                    Once the state receives water system test results, it determines whether
States Are          the results indicate a violation of either monitoring or MCL requirements
Underreporting      and reports identified violations to the EPA regional office. The regional
Violations to EPA   office periodically audits the state-reported compliance data through
                    “data verification studies,” which are intended to detect systemic
                    reporting problems. We found that the EPA verification studies contained
                    substantial evidence that states are underreporting violations to EPA.
                    Information on state reporting practices obtained during our site visits
                    confirmed the findings reported by EPA.

                    To conduct their “data verification” studies, EPA regional officials select
                    a random sample of water systems and then compare the state’s raw
                    compliance data, such as monitoring records and laboratory reports,
                    with the information states reported to the agency’s data management
                    system. In total, we reviewed data verification studies conducted by all
                    10 EPA regional offices covering 38 states plus Puerto Rico and the Vir-
                    gin Islands.”                                                                                              b

                    Our examination of EPA'Sstudies disclosed that although the percentage
                    of total errors identified from state to state varied widely, the percent-
                    age of errors found to involve the underreporting of violations was con-
                    sistently high. For example, EPA regional offices reviewed the accuracy
                    of microbiological compliance data in all 40 states in which data verifi-
                    cation studies were performed. EPA found reporting errors in over 25
                    percent of the sample cases in 15 states; in 6 of the 15 states, the error

                    “We obtained the most recent study available in each case. The frequency of EPA’s reviews depends
                    on the resources and priorities of individual EPA regional offices. The studies included in our analysis
                    used data from fiscal years 1984 through 1989; 50 percent of the studies were based on data from
                    fiscal year 1987 or later.



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                    Level Requirement43




                    rate exceeded 50 percent. In 25 states, over 75 percent of all reporting
                    errors involved the underreporting of violations. EPA reviewed the accu-
                    racy of compliance data for turbidity, chemical contaminants, and radio-
                    logical contaminants in fewer locations, but the results were generally
                    consistent with what the agency found in its examination of data for
                    microbiological contaminants,


Reasonsfor          The studies cite a variety of reasons why violations were underreported.
Underreporting of   Four EPAregions indicated that reporting violations to EPAwas some,-
                    times given a lower priority than other activities. At least five regions
Violations          reported that state program staff were not always sufficiently knowl-
                    edgeable about federal regulations to recognize all violations and report
                    them properly. In Region II, for example, one state was incorrectly clas-
                    sifying water systems with monitoring violations as “non-reporters.”

                    State and regional policies that revise or suspend certain monitoring
                    requirements are a major factor contributing to the problem of underre-
                    porting violations. Specifically, according to EPA’Sdata verification stud-
                    ies in at least six regions, monitoring for chemical and/or radiological
                    contaminants was suspended under state policies. For example, the fis-
                    cal year 1988 study for Michigan disclosed that the state had not
                    enforced federal monitoring requirements for inorganic chemicals since
                    1982 because EPAand the state agreed that limited resources should be
                    used to test for volatile organic compounds instead. Other states estab-
                    lished similar policies for a variety of reasons. In addition to revealing
                    the suspension of monitoring requirements, the data verification studies
                    disclosed that some states did not have systems to track water system
                    compliance with chemical and/or radiological monitoring requirements
                    and thus could not determine whether monitoring violations had
                    occurred.

                    During our site visits, we also identified regional and state policies that
                    led to the underreporting of violations. For example, under an EPA region
                    X policy, microbiological monitoring violations are not reported to the
                    national data base as long as a water system has taken over 50 percent
                    of the required samples during a month. In the case of turbidity, the
                    regulations require daily monitoring, but in Region X, monitoring viola-
                    tions are not reported as long as the water system has tested its water at
                    least 20 days during the month.

                    As a result of such policies, monitoring is partially completed or not
                    required at all, and monitoring violations are not being reported to EPA.


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                      Chapter 2                                                                      ‘1
                      Many Water Systems Are Not Complying
                      With Monitoring and Contaminant
                      Level Requirements




                      The problem presents a dilemma for EPA:On one hand, states or EPA
                      regions may present a compelling case why such policies may be war-
                      ranted. On the other hand, EPAis tolerating state and regional policies
                      that directly conflict with existing requirements. Whether or not the
                      policies are justified, our primary concern is that the present situation
                      undermines a program that relies primarily on adherence to published
                      regulatory requirements. In addition to encouraging noncompliance,
                      these policies also lead to statistics that mislead EPAmanagers and the
                      public into believing that required monitoring is being conducted and
                      that compliance is being achieved.


                      Once states determine whether water systems have violated monitoring
EPA Data Management   or MCLrequirements, they report identified violations to EPA,where the
Problems              data are compiled and summarized to develop national compliance rates.
                      However, because EPAis missing key information, it cannot determine
                      accurate compliance rates for many contaminants.

                      This complex problem arises, in part, from the fact that EPA'Sdata man-
                      agement system is an “exception” system; states only report violations.
                      Thus, a lack of reported violations is taken to mean a water system is in
                      full compliance. However, in the case of chemical and radiological moni-
                      toring requirements, the fact that no violations have been reported for a
                      particular system could mean that the water system is in full compli-
                      ance-but it could also mean that (1) required monitoring has not been
                      conducted, but the compliance period has not ended yet or (2) a viola-
                      tion has been detected, but has not yet been reported.

                      These ambiguities are complicated by inconsistencies in how states track
                      these violations and report them to EPA.The required monitoring fre-
                      quency for chemical and radiological contaminants is every 1,3, or 4                  b
                      years, depending on the contaminant and type of water source, and EPA
                      requires no set point within these periods when tests must be conducted.
                      As already noted, EPA'Sdata verification studies disclosed that some
                      states do not have systems to track compliance with chemical and radio-
                      logical monitoring requirements. In addition, even when states report
                      violations to EPA,the agency does not know when the compliance period
                      begins and ends for a particular contaminant and water system or
                      whether the state is reporting violations when they occur or at the end
                      of the compliance period. Although states are required to report such
                      information, some do not or report data subject to multiple interpreta-
                      tions. According to an official from EPA'SOffice of Drinking Water, the



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              Level Requirements




              agency is unwilling to assume that all systems for which no monitoring
              violations have been reported are in full compliance.

              Because of these concerns, EPAcannot use its data management system
              to generate an SNClist for chemical and radiological monitoring viola-
              tions and must instead rely on the states to compile such lists. In addi-
              tion, EPAcan only report limited information on overall compliance. For
              example, in fiscal year 1987 EPAreported that 2.3 percent of all water
              systems were SNCSbecause they had never tested for chemical and
              radiological contaminants and, for the remaining 97.7 percent, could
              report only that these water systems had monitored at least once since
              the requirements took effect in June 1977.7 However, these figures do
              not reveal much about compliance, since some water systems have been
              required to monitor some contaminants annually since 1977. There
              could well be a significant gap between “monitoring at least once since
              the requirements took effect” and full compliance. Unless states
              improve their tracking systems, EPAwill continue to have problems in
              determining the extent of water system compliance with chemical and
              radiological requirements.


              Although published EPAdata show that (1) most water systems are com-
Conclusions   plying with monitoring and contaminant level requirements and (2) the
              relatively few violating systems have generally committed minor infrac-
              tions, we found considerable noncompliance with these requirements.
              Part of this discrepancy is a matter of definition: Under EPA’S criteria,
              “significant noncompliance” may exclude both cases of chronic noncom-
              pliance with monitoring requirements and cases where MCLSare
              exceeded by substantial margins.

              Beyond these definitional concerns over how EPA categorizes known vio-                                  ,
              lations, many violations are either not being detected at all, or are being
              detected but are not accounted for in EPA compliance data. This problem
              reflects weaknesses in the manner in which (1) water systems sample
              water supplies, analyze the results, and report them to the state; (2) the
              state reports on systems’ compliance with monitoring and MCLrequire-
              ments; and (3) EPA determines compliance.




              7As of March 1990, EPA’s fiscal year 1988 annual compliance report was still in draft. The draft
              report identified the number of water systems that were SNCs as a result of chemical and radiological
              monitoring violations, but was silent as to the compliance status of the remaining water systems.



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At the water system level, we found some violations are being commit-
ted unintentionally by system operators who take and test water sam-
ples incorrectly. This, we found, is particularly true at smaller water
systems, which often do not have the resources to hire and retain highly
trained operators. The addition of increasingly technical drinking water
regulations in coming years will only add to the problem. While some
states sponsor training programs for operators of small water systems,
such programs will need to become more widespread and comprehensive
as the drinking water regulations themselves grow in complexity. More
consistent use of operator certification programs can also help avert
such problems. While EPAis planning to require some water systems to
have state-approved operators, the agency does not plan to establish
any minimum criteria for how this requirement should be met.

A second problem at the water system level is the potential for deliber-
ate falsification of compliance data or manipulation of the test itself to
produce the desired result. While the extent of this problem is unknown,
we found that (1) falsifying data and manipulating test results are rela-
tively easy to accomplish, (2) ample evidence exists that the practices
are occurring, and (3) incentives to engage in these activities will
increase because violations of new drinking water regulations may
require costly treatment measures or other facility improvements. While
some states have undertaken modest efforts to detect such problems,
few have a systematic program to identify and investigate potential
data falsification. We believe that EPAshould encourage states to more
actively seek out data falsification and should provide guidance on ways
to do this. The few efforts identified in our review are a good starting
point for building an active and effective deterrence program.

Our review also suggests that better compliance by water systems could                     L
be achieved through more consistent implementation of sanitary
surveys. Although most state program managers agree that sanitary
surveys are a valuable quality assurance tool, some states’ survey pro-
grams omit important functions or have been discontinued altogether
because of funding difficulties. Compounding this problem is EPA’S
ambiguous policy toward the surveys: Although EPAregulations require
the surveys, states without them may not be considered in violation
because the agency has not established how frequently they must be
conducted.

We acknowledge the difficulties for EPA and the states in supporting
such programs as program responsibilities expand during an era of lim-
ited resources. However, we believe that an unenforced requirement


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                  Many Water Systems Are Not Complying
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                  Level Requirements




                  reduces the program’s credibility and that EPAshould either properly
                  implement or eliminate it. Given the value of the surveys as a needed
                  quality assurance tool, we believe the preferable alternative is to assist
                  states in finding alternative ways to fund such programs. Such assis-
                  tance could also be used to encourage states to retain or establish other
                  quality assurance programs, such as operator certification and training
                  programs. EPA'Scurrent efforts to help states find alternative funding
                  sources to support these and other activities are discussed in chapter 4.

                  In addition to the problems affecting water system compliance, another
                  is that the states are not reporting some violations to EPAbecause of
                  state policies that suspend or restrict federal monitoring requirements.
                  While in certain cases, states may present a compelling case why a par-
                  ticular requirement is counterproductive, we believe that an open disre-
                  gard for existing requirements provides a chance for abuse and
                  undermines the program’s credibility. In addition to encouraging non-
                  compliance, these policies also lead to statistics that mislead EPAmanag-
                  ers and the public into believing that required monitoring is being
                  conducted and that compliance is being achieved, We believe that EPA
                  needs to evaluate such policies and-within       the constraints of the Safe
                  Drinking Water Act-decide whether changes should be made to
                  existing regulations. Once those decisions are made, however, the
                  agency needs to ensure that the regulations are observed and enforced.

                  At the federal level, we found that EPAis missing key information it
                  needs to track water systems’ compliance and thereby perform its over-
                  sight responsibilities. Without such information, EPA'Sdata management
                  system provides incomplete information about compliance with certain
                  requirements.

                  Finally, an additional tool needed to encourage compliance is a credible              b
                  enforcement program. Such a program helps deter deliberate noncompli-
                  ance problems such as those discussed in this chapter and provides sys-
                  tems with the incentive to meet their responsibilities under the drinking
                  water program. As discussed in the following chapter, however,
                  improvements need to be made to ensure that EPA'Senforcement pro-
                  gram stands as a credible deterrent to noncompliance.


                  We recommend that the Administrator, EPA,follow through on the
Recommendations   agency’s reexamination of its SNCcriteria in order to more comprehen-
                  sively identify chronic noncompliance with monitoring requirements



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                                                                            I




    Chapter 2
    Many Water Systems Are Not Complying
    With Monltorlng and Contaminant
    Level Requirements




    and substantial violations of MCL requirements& n addition, we recom-
    mend that the Administrator improve water systems’ compliance with
    program requirements by directing the Office of Drinking Water to do
    the following:

l Promote more consistent and effective use of state-sponsored training
  programs and operator certification programs, which would reduce
  operator error. These efforts should include guidance on (1) how train-
  ing programs should help water systems deal with the increasingly tech-
  nical drinking water regulations now being promulgated by EPAand (2)
  what the minimum criteria should be for state operator certification
  requirements.
9 Evaluate the extent to which intentional falsification of test data or
  manipulation of the water sampling process may be occurring. The
  Office of Drinking Water should also provide guidance to the states on
  how to best discourage these practices by water systems and to detect
  them when they do occur, so that appropriate enforcement action may
  be taken.
l Encourage states to implement sanitary survey programs more consis-
  tently. Specifically, the Office should clarify to the states its ambiguous
  policy on whether sanitary survey programs are required. In addition,
  the Office should encourage all quality assurance efforts-including
  operator certification and training as well as sanitary surveys-by
  assisting states in finding alternative ways to fund such programs (as
  discussed in ch. 4 of this report).
l Evaluate state policies that suspend or restrict federal monitoring
  requirements and determine (within the constraints of the Safe Drinking
  Water Act) whether modifications should be made to existing regula-
  tions. Once these policies are evaluated, the Office should ensure that
  the states observe the final decisions and enforce the regulations.




    Page 32         GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
Chapter 3

EnforcementInadequatein Deterring anil
Correcting Noncompliance

                       In recent years, EPAhas put more emphasis on enforcement as a means
                       of returning violators of safe drinking water requirements to compli-
                       ance. EPAfirst implemented criteria for identifying water systems that
                       deviate significantly from these requirements in fiscal year 1986, saying
                       it would give high priority to enforcement against these systems. The
                       agency also required states to take timely and appropriate enforcement
                       action against these violators and, in fiscal year 1987, provided the
                       states with specific guidance as to what constitutes such action.

                       However, our review of SNCenforcement cases in six states indicated
                       that state enforcement actions often do not meet the timeliness and
                       appropriateness criteria. Moreover, such actions are often ineffective in
                       returning SNCSto compliance, or do so only after lengthy delays. Our
                       case reviews disclosed that some systems had been in noncompliance for
                       many years and, in several cases, became a health threat despite long-
                       term enforcement efforts. Many of these long-term cases have been com-
                       plicated by situations in which system ownership is in dispute or sys-
                       tems have had difficulty paying for needed corrective action.

                       When states do not take timely and appropriate enforcement action, the
                       Safe Drinking Water Act requires that EPAeither issue an administrative
                       order or commence a civil action. However, EPAhas taken such actions
                       infrequently. Moreover, EPArarely has stepped in on its own initiative
                       and exercised its enforcement authority when state action was delayed
                       or ineffective.


                       In the 1986 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, Congress
Safe Drinking Water    granted EPAenforcement authority to issue administrative orders
Act Requirements and   (orders that systems take action to comply) and impose administrative
EPA Enforcement        penalties up to a total of $5,000 for noncompliance with such an order.
                       In addition, the existing civil penalty authority was increased from                l
Policy                 $5,000 per day to $25,000 per day. Congress also removed the require-
                       ment that violations be shown to be willful as a prerequisite for
                       obtaining penalties.

                       Another key change in the 1986 amendments was to require enforce-
                       ment action against all violations of the drinking water regulations. If
                       the state does not act, the law requires EPAto issue an administrative
                       order or commence a civil action. Previously, states were only required
                       to report to EPAon the steps being taken (which may or may not have




                       Page 33       GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program




                                             ,.    .“‘,
                                                                                           .:    ,.
                                              .b
  Chapter 3
  Enforcement Inadequate In Deterrhg and                                                          ‘,
  Correcting Noncompliance




  included an enforcement action) to bring the violator back into compli-
  ance. If the state action was deemed to be unsatisfactory by EPA,the
  earlier statute provided only that EPA“may commence a civil action.”

  Rather than taking enforcement action against all violations, EPA
  responded to the 1986 amendments with an enforcement policy that
  focused primarily on the most significant violators, or significant
  noncompliers.’ This approach reflected constrained resources among EPA
  and state regulators and the knowledge that some violations are more
  serious than others. Furthermore, rather than requiring state action
  within 30 days of the state’s learning of a violation (as the act requires),
  EPAruled that a state can meet the agency’s timeliness criteria if it takes
  enforcement action within 8 or 14 months after a water system is deter-
  mined to be in significant noncompliance.z

  EPAdefined four types of enforcement actions as appropriate:

. Formal administrative orders or compliance orders compelling a water
  system to comply with drinking water requirements. The state regula-
  tory agency usually issues these orders to the water system directly,
  although some states require prior approval by their attorney general.
  The orders may provide for penalties if the water system does not
  comply.
. Referral of a civil judicial case to the state attorney general. Upon
  receiving a civil referral, the state attorney general, or in some instances
  the local district attorney, files suit in civil court seeking a court order
  forbidding future violations and compelling the water system to take
  measures to come into compliance.
. Filing of a criminal judicial case in an appropriate state court.
. Negotiation of an informal bilateral compliance agreement by represen-
  tatives of the water system and the state program office. The agreement
  must be signed and must contain compliance schedules indicating the                                    l

  steps that will return the water system to compliance.

  According to EPA’Senforcement policy, states should choose an enforce-
  ment action based on the seriousness of the violation, its circumstances,
  the water system’s compliance history, and the economic benefit the

  ‘As noted in chapter 2, although EPA encourages states to take action against ah violators, SNCs
  have been the primary focus of EPA’s enforcement policy and tracking system and state enforcement
  goals.

  ‘An enforcement action is required within 8 months for microbiological and turbidity monitoring and
  MCL violations, and for total trihalomethane monitoring violations. The ll-month deadline applies to
  chemical and radiological monitoring and MCL violations.



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                              Enforcement Inadequate in Deterring and
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                              system derives from noncompliance. In any case, enforcement should
                              quickly correct the violation, deter future noncompliance, and be fair to
                              the affected parties.


                              To determine how successfully states were implementing EPA’Spolicy on
States Rarely Met EPA         timely and appropriate enforcement, we reviewed actions by six states
Enforcement Criteria          against 76 water systems. The systems had a total of 96 SNCviolations.”
                              Overall, we found that states took timely and appropriate action in 24 of
                              the 96 cases, or about 25 percent of the time. Among the specific find-
                              ings discussed in this section are the following:

                            9 States took timely action less often against systems that had a record of
                              serious and continuous violations for many years (i.e., a record of viola-
                              tions beginning prior to the time EPA’S enforcement policy was fully
                              implemented in October 1986). In these cases, states generally either
                              took no action or did so only after lengthy delays.
                            . States took inappropriate enforcement action most frequently in the
                              more recent cases involving compliance agreements. In these cases,
                              states often did not meet EPA’S criteria on when such actions should be
                              taken or what they should contain.


Many State Enforcement        Of the 95 cases in our review, water systems returned to compliance
Actions Against Long-term     without enforcement action in 17 of the cases. Under EPA policy, states
                              were required to take enforcement action in the remaining 78 cases. We
SNCsWere Untimely             found that states met EPA’S timeliness criteria in 43 of these 78 cases?
                              As table 3.1 shows, cases of untimely enforcement most frequently
                              involved long-term SNCviolations.




                              “Appendix II contains a detailed discussion of the methodology we used to select SNC violations for
                              review.
                              4To determine whether state enforcement actions were timely in accordance with EPA criteria, we
                              counted the number of months from the end of the quarter in which an SNC violation was first
                              identified to the date of the enforcement action. In the case of long-term violators, which would have
                              qualified as SNCs prior to when the SNC criteria were fully implemented in fiscal year 1987, we
                              began the count with December 1986, the end of the first quarter in fiscal year 1987. When the only
                              enforcement action in a case occurred prior to the SNC identification date or, in the case of long-term
                              SNCs, prior to December 1986, we gave the state credit for a timely action.



                              Page 36            GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
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                                         Enforcement Inadequate in Deterring and
                                         Correcting Noncompliance




Table 3.1: State Performance Against
EPA Timeliness Criteria                                                                 SNC violations           Long-term SNC
                                                                                     identified in fiscal        violations ( re-
                                                                                               year 1987       fiscal year 1i 87)           Total
                                         Criteria met -.-_---.--
                                         System returned to compliance
                                            without enforcement action.
                                         .---..                                                          12                        5             17
                                         States took timely enforcement
                                            action.                                                      19                      24”             43
                                         Criteria not met
                                         State enforcement action was late.
                                         ------~-                                                         7                        9             16
                                         States took no enforcement action
                                            and system did not return to
                                         -_-compliance (as of..~__...
                                                                May 1989).                                3                      16              19
                                         Total                                                          41                       54              95
                                         aThis figure includes 11 cases in which we gave the states credit for enforcement actions that occurred
                                         prior to the implementation of EPA’s enforcement pokey. In five instances, states took enforcement
                                         actron from 2 to 14 months before the policy took effect, and in the remaining six cases, the enforce-
                                         ment action occurred from 20 to 40 months earlier.


                                         Of the 41 recent cases (i.e., cases first identified in fiscal year 1987), 31
                                         were resolved in accordance with EPApolicy as of May 1989. One expla-
                                         nation for the relative ease with which these cases were resolved is that
                                         a high proportion involved easily correctable problems. For example,
                                         over half of the cases involved systems identified as SNCSbecause they
                                         had never conducted required monitoring for chemical and/or radiologi-
                                         cal contaminants. To return to compliance, the water systems needed
                                         only to collect the applicable water samples and obtain acceptable test
                                         results.

                                         The results of our analysis for the 54 long-term SNCviolations were less
                                         satisfactory. Of the 54 cases, 29 were resolved in accordance with EPA
                                         policy-either    the water systems returned to compliance without
                                         enforcement action or the states took timely action. As noted in table
                                         3.1, however, 11 of the 24 “timely” actions actually occurred prior to
                                         the implementation of EPA'S policy, some of them by a matter of years.
                                         Subsequent enforcement actions were not taken despite continued non-
                                         compliance. In the remaining 25 cases, the states did not meet EPA’Stime-
                                         liness criteria:

                                       . In nine cases, enforcement actions were late, with states exceeding the
                                         deadlines by 6 months or less in six cases and by a year or more in three.




                                         Page 36             GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program




                                                                            ;...
                           Chapter 3
                           Enforcement Inadequate in Deterring and
                           Cbrecting Noncompliance




                         . In another 16 cases, enforcement action had never been taken. As of
                           May 1989, the duration of these violations averaged over 6 years.”

                           Several factors contributed to the states’ inability to meet EPA timeliness
                           criteria when dealing with these long-term SNC violations. The lack of
                           timely action stems in part from the states’ reliance on efforts to achieve
                           voluntary compliance, even after years of recalcitrance by system own-
                           ers. We noted situations in which the states postponed appropriate
                           enforcement action until long after serious compliance problems were
                           first identified. In one case, for example, a system had not performed
                           required monitoring for any of the regulated contaminants since June
                           1980, when it took one sample for microbiological contaminants. Even
                           so, the state’s first enforcement action did not occur until October 1987.

                           Still, while recalcitrance explains part of the problem, some cases are
                           difficult to resolve simply through enforcement. In some of these cases,
                           states delayed or did not take enforcement action in favor of working
                           with the water system to resolve difficult problems encountered in
                           locating alternative water sources and obtaining financing for drilling
                           new wells or connecting to neighboring systems. In other cases, systems
                           had been abandoned and the states could not find parties willing to take
                           responsibility for operating the systems. The facts behind these difficult
                           cases illustrate the problems states face in achieving the ultimate goal of
                           the enforcement program- to bring SNCS back into compliance. These
                           issues are discussed in more detail later in this chapter.


Many State Enforcement     As noted earlier, water systems returned to compliance without enforce-
Actions Are Not            ment action in 17 of the 95 cases we reviewed, and, according to EPA
                           policy, states were required to take action in the remaining 78 cases. We
Appropriate                found that states met EPAappropriateness criteria in 33 of the 78 cases.                                 l
                           In another 26 cases, states’ actions were not appropriate,” and states
                           took no enforcement action in 19 cases. All 26 cases in which state



                           “These systems were classified as in significant noncompliance when EPA fully implemented the cri-
                           teria in fiscal year 1987. However, all of these cases involved longstanding violations (predating
                           1986) that would have qualified the water systems as SNCs at the time the violations were first
                           committed.
                           “The 69 cases in which states took enforcement action involved 66 individual actions, including 37
                           bilateral compliance agreements, 17 administrative orders, and 12 civil referrals. The number of
                           enforcement actions is different from the number of cases because (1) states took multiple enforce-
                           ment actions in 16 cases and (2) in 9 instances states used a single action to address multiple viola-
                           tions (cases) at the same water system.



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                                   Enforcement Inadequate in Deterring and
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                                   actions did not meet EPA'Sappropriateness criteria involved bilateral
                                   compliance agreements.7

Bilateral ComplianceAgreements We reviewed the extent to which bilateral compliance agreements met
Usually Do Not Meet EPA’s      specific EPAcriteria for their content and use. According to EPAguidance,
AppropriatenessCriteria        such agreements must be written, be signed by both parties, and include
                                   a schedule with interim milestones and a final date for when compliance
                                   will be achieved. The guidance also states that actions stronger than
                                   bilateral compliance agreement& should be used when the water system
                                   has had a long history of violations or has violated the terms of a previ-
                                   ous compliance schedule.

                                   Based on our review of the case files, 31 of the 37 bilateral compliance
                                   agreements did not meet EPAappropriateness criteria. Ten were not
                                   appropriate for multiple reasons. The most common problem, found in
                                   28 instances, was that the agreements were never signed by water sys-
                                   tem representatives. Such signatures are important because they indi-
                                   cate a commitment to take the required corrective action.

                                   In seven cases, we determined that issuing a bilateral compliance agree-
                                   ment was inappropriate in light of the water system’s poor compliance
                                   history. For example, a municipal water system had almost continuous
                                   monitoring violations since late 1982. Documents in the case file indicate
                                   that the system operator was reluctant to test the water because a dete-
                                   riorating distribution system and chronic pressure problems made it
                                   likely that the test results would exceed the MCL. Tests periodically con-
                                   ducted by the state confirmed such contamination. In July 1984 the
                                   state threatened legal action if the system did not initiate testing within
                                   45 days. The system complied briefly, but has rarely taken required
                                   microbiological samples since August 1984. The state finally imposed a
                                   compliance schedule in March 1989, noting, “It is evident that the City                                   a
                                   has failed to voluntarily make more than minimal efforts to insure the
                                   potability of the water. . . .”



                                    7To determine whether state enforcement actions sctuslly qualified as “appropriate,” we reviewed
                                    the applicable case files to verify that the actions took place and that the enforcement documents had
                                    been signed by the appropriate parties and formally issued. In instances where there may have been
                                    some ambiguity about whether the state took an appropriate action, our approach was to give the
                                    state credit for the action. When states reported that an enforcement action applied to a particular
                                    violation even though the action did not specifically cite the SNC violation, we gave the state credit
                                    for the action ss long as it met EPA’s appropriateness criteria. Similarly, where states took multiple
                                    enforcement actions to address a single caee, we gave them credit for sn appropriate action in that
                                    case if any one of the actions met appropriateness criteria.



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                                 Similar circumstances existed for the other six compliance agreements
                                 we deemed inappropriate because of the water systems’ poor compli-
                                 ance history. For example, in three instances, states issued compliance
                                 schedules after earlier formal enforcement actions had proved
                                 ineffective.

                                 We also found that four compliance agreements did not contain interim
                                 milestone dates, despite the fact that the agreements required substan-
                                 tive corrective action, Two compliance agreements did not include final
                                 completion dates. When corrective action entails a major construction
                                 project, milestone dates are essential for state regulators to monitor a
                                 water system’s progress toward achieving compliance.

Other Enforcement Actions Meet   Because EPAessentially leaves it up to the states to determine what
Appropriateness Criteria         should be included in administrative orders and civil referrals, they
                                 need only be issued to be “appropriate.” Hence, we determined that all
                                 29 administrative orders and civil referrals reviewed were appropriate.
                                 Ultimately, however, the primary goal of these actions is to bring about
                                 compliance, and some of them are not achieving this end. As discussed
                                 in the following sections, ineffective enforcement action partially
                                 explains why some water systems have remained in significant noncom-
                                 pliance for years.


                                 One of the more striking observations to be made about the 95 enforce-
Many Significant                 ment cases we reviewed is the length of time many of the water systems
Noncompliers Have                have remained in significant noncompliance. Table 3.2 shows that as of
Remained in                      February 1990, nearly half the cases had met the SNCcriteria for over 4
                                 years. In 31 of these 46 cases, water systems were still in significant
Noncompliance for                noncompliance at that time.
Years




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Table 3.2: Number of Months QAO
Review Cases Met SNC Criteria                                             Cases returned to
                                                                           compliance as of         Cases still SNCs as
                                  Number of months                                    2/90a                      of 2/90b           Total
                                  6to12                                                      13                            0           13
                                  13to18                                                     12                           0            12
                                  19to24                                                      7                           0             7
                                  25 to 36                                                    2                           3             5
                                  37 to 48                                                    4                           8            12
                                  49 to 60
                                                               -~                             8                           4            12
                                  61 to 72                                                    6                           5            11
                                  Over 72                                                      1                         22            23
                                  Total-                                                     53                          42            95
                                  Tar cases included in this column, the number of months denotes the time elapsed from when the
                                  system first qualified as an SNC to when the system returned to compliance.

                                  hFor cases included in this column, the number of months denotes the time elapsed from when the
                                  system first qualified as an SNC to February 1990.


                                  Although we used compliance data from fiscal years 1983 through 1987
                                  to determine when our review cases first qualified as SNCS, we identified
                                  a number of instances in which the water systems had serious violations
                                  that would have qualified them as SNCS even before fiscal year 1983. For
                                  example, in five cases, the water systems had been subject to “boil
                                  water orders” for 10 or more years as a result of known or suspected
                                  microbiological contamination.” In eight other instances, the case files
                                  contained evidence that chemical or radiological MCL violations, which
                                  were serious enough to warrant classifying the system as an SNC under
                                  current criteria, had existed since the late 1970s or early 1980s.


                                  There is no simple explanation for why some water systems remain in
Long-term Significant             significant noncompliance for years. Many of the cases involve multiple                                   a
Noncompliers Often                problems, and it was often difficult to single out a particular problem as
Involve Difficult                 the primary factor in delaying a water system’s return to compliance.
                                  Ineffective enforcement-by     states and EPA-is clearly an important
Compliance Issues                 contributing factor in the delays in resolving some of these cases. How-
                                  ever, our case reviews disclosed other issues that contributed to the dif-
                                  ficulty of achieving compliance, including (1) financing the cost of
                                  expensive corrective actions, (2) resolving difficult technical problems
                                  when water treatment alone was insufficient, and (3) sorting out legal

                                  ‘When state regulatory officials determine that there is a significant threat of microbiological con-
                                  tamination, water systems may be ordered to notify consumers that they must boil their drinking
                                  water before using it.



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                          disputes over system ownership to identify parties responsible for meet-
                          ing drinking water requirements.


SomeEnforcement Actions   Earlier, we noted that states have frequently not taken required
Taken Are Not Effective   enforcement action in a timely manner and that some actions have not
                          met EPA'Sappropriateness criteria. In many instances, however, enforce-
                          ment actions satisfying the EPAcriteria have been taken but have not
                          achieved their ultimate objective -to bring violating systems into com-
                          pliance. We found this to be particularly true of civil referrals.

                          Under EPA'Senforcement policy regarding civil referrals, states do not
                          have to file suit in court before reporting an appropriate action. They
                          may take credit for an appropriate enforcement action when the referral
                          is made to the state attorney general.” According to officials from EPA'S
                          Office of Drinking Water, because filing the cases in court is outside the
                          control of the state regulatory agency, program officials should not be
                          held accountable for any delays that occur after the referral to the state
                          attorney general. Although the EPAofficials expressed concern about the
                          possibility of civil referrals’ “dying on the attorney general’s desk,” they
                          had no information on the extent to which this may be occurring.

                          We found that 7 of the 12 civil referrals in our enforcement case reviews
                          had not been filed as of September 1989. Significantly, in only one case
                          among the unfiled referrals had the water system returned to compli-
                          ance.l(’ Two of the remaining six unfiled referrals involved a single
                          case-a municipal water system that violated the microbiological MCL
                          continuously since 1982. The state made the first referral in July 1985
                          after the town failed to comply with a consent order. The case was not
                          filed in court because the state decided to negotiate a second consent
                          order instead. However, after continued noncompliance and the town’s                                     a
                          failure to initiate corrective actions, the state made a second civil refer-
                          ral in January 1987. Although that action was also not filed, town
                          residents finally passed a bond vote in March 1987 to finance the filtra-
                          tion plant needed to correct the problem.



                          “While EPA’s enforcement policy states that the referral should be made to the state attorney general,
                          some states, such as Oklahoma, require that the referral be made to a local district attorney.

                          “‘The state dropped the civil action in this case and categorized the water system as returned to
                          compliance when the state determined that the system no longer met the federal definition of a com-
                          munity water system because it regularly served fewer than 25 individuals. The case was closed 30
                          months after the referral date.



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                                 The other four water systems also had long-term compliance problems
                                 that had not been resolved; as of September 1989, they had had SNC-
                                 level violations for, on average, over 5 years. For these unfiled referrals,
                                 the time that had elapsed from the referral date through September
                                 1989 was 19 months, 43 months, 53 months, and ‘75 months.

                                 Interviews with officials in five of the six states confirmed difficulties in
                                 using the civil referral process. In Oklahoma, for example, program offi-
                                 cials must work through the local district attorneys to file civil cases.
                                 The program manager told us that while some of these attorneys are
                                 cooperative, others want nothing to do with drinking water cases unless
                                 an imminent threat to public health exists. As a result, according to the
                                 state program manager, Oklahoma officials are referring fewer and
                                 fewer cases for civil action. Oregon officials told us that they are reluc-
                                 tant to use the civil referral process because state attorneys bill the
                                 drinking water program by the hour for the legal assistance, and a single
                                 case can be very expensive.

                                 In contrast, Texas has devoted sufficient resources to its civil referral
                                 process to help ensure that drinking water cases are acted upon in a
                                 timely manner. The state attorney general has an environmental protec-
                                 tion division with about 20 attorneys, including 8 to 10 who are dedi-
                                 cated specifically to drinking water cases. Program officials told us that
                                 the only limitation on the number of civil referrals is the program
                                 office’s ability to compile the information needed to support them. Dur-
                                 ing fiscal years 1987 and 1988, the program staff referred a total of 92
                                 water systems to the attorney general’s office for civil action. As of Jan-
                                 uary 1990,45 of these cases had been filed in court, and most had been
                                 resolved with an agreed final judgment (consent judgment) and a civil
                                 penalty. Of the remaining 47 cases, 13 were closed (largely because the
                                                                                                                       I,
                                 issues that initially brought about the action were resolved), and 34
                                 were as yet unfiled and still open.

State Efforts to Deal With       Concerned about the effectiveness of the civil referral process, EPAcon-
Ineffective EnforcementActions   sidered requiring states to have the authority to issue administrative
Have Only Partially Succeeded    orders and penalties in order to retain primacy and requested comments
                                 on this matter in proposed regulations. However, after commenters indi-
                                 cated that their state legislatures would be reluctant to grant additional
                                 enforcement authority, EPAopted, in December 1989, to make no
                                 changes pending the results of its research on existing state enforcement
                                 authorities and their effectiveness. Officials in EPA’SOffice of Drinking
                                 Water expect to complete this study by the end of fiscal year 1990.



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Nevertheless, 5 of the 6 states we visited obtained authority to issue
administrative orders as an alternative to the cumbersome civil referral
processI However, we found that the usefulness of this authority may
be limited unless (1) it is also accompanied by the authority to assess
meaningful penalties and (2) the procedures that must be followed can
achieve results in a timely fashion.

Washington program officials told us that the enactment of administra-
tive order authority in 1986 was largely responsible for eliminating a
large backlog of enforcement cases awaiting action. However, according
to Washington officials, the real key to effective administrative author-
ity is the state’s ability to assess penalties for failure to comply with an
order. These officials also say they have had some success using penal-
ties as a bargaining tool to force water systems to take corrective action

In contrast, Vermont does not have authority to assess administrative
penalties. Administrative orders may contain a threat of penalties if a
water system fails to comply, but the state must go to court to collect
them. As a result, Vermont has rarely assessed any penalties. At one
time, Massachusetts also had to refer cases to the state attorney general
to get a civil penalty assessed, creating the same problems that adminis-
trative orders were intended to solve-backlogs of low priority cases at
the state attorney general’s office. The problem was alleviated after the
drinking water program obtained its own authority to issue penalties in
1986.

Another potential problem with administrative order authority is the
process required for its use. For example, EPAregion VI officials told us
that Louisiana has never issued an administrative order and, in fact, has
rarely initiated the process because it is so cumbersome. The procedure
requires the water system to have three opportunities to return to com-                                a
pliance before the state can issue the order. A Louisiana program man-
ager confirmed that the administrative order process is lengthy and said
that the state does not have enough program staff to handle the work
load.

While EPAis understandably reluctant to force states to adopt specific
enforcement authorities and practices, we believe the agency needs to
ensure that states have some method to carry out their enforcement
responsibilities effectively and to return violators to compliance. EPA

’ ‘As noted above, Texas officials believe the state has devoted the necessary resources to make the
civil referral process work effectively.



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                               does conduct an annual program review in each state to evaluate its
                               ability to implement the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. In
                               conducting this review, EPAshould examine whether those states that
                               choose to rely on civil referrals have access to sufficient resources
                               within the attorney general’s office to obtain effective action. Similarly,
                               where states have adopted administrative order authority, the agency
                               should examine the need for (1) administrative penalty authority and
                               (2) a workable process for issuing the orders.

EPA Follow-up Enforcement      According to EPA'Senforcement policy, SNCSthat have neither returned
RestrictedWhen State Actions   to compliance nor been subject to appropriate state enforcement actions
Are Ineffective                go on an “exceptions list” and become potential targets for EPA enforce-
                               ment, Of the 95 cases included in our review, we examined the 38 cases
                               reported to be on this list to determine whether EPAhad taken enforce-
                               ment action. Evaluating EPAefforts in the 38 cases was somewhat prob-
                               lematic because some cases did not actually qualify as “exceptions.“I~
                               Notwithstanding this classification problem, we found that EPAenforce-
                               ment policy excludes some serious enforcement problems from this list
                               and thus from EPAfollow-up enforcement.

                               In a number of the long-term SNCcases, states had taken enforcement
                               actions that were appropriate under EPAguidelines, but the actions were
                               not effective in returning the systems to compliance-sometimes       long
                               after the violations first began. In such cases, EPAis authorized to step in
                               and exercise its own enforcement authority to resolve the compliance
                               problems. When asked why eight such cases were not targeted for EPA
                               follow-up enforcement action, EPAregional officials told us that no fed-
                               eral action was taken because (1) the state was actively tracking the
                               case, (2) state enforcement appeared to be sufficient, (3) the state did
                               not request intervention, or (4) they assumed that the state was han-
                               dling the case.                                                                                       b

                               However, we found that these cases were lingering on with little or no
                               progress and, in at least one instance, presented a potentially serious
                               health risk. In this instance, a water system had serious violations since
                               1980 that, under the current criteria, would warrant classification as an
                               SNC.State officials tracked the system-issuing    notices of violation,

                               ‘%tates had taken appropriate action in 13 cases, and in another 7, the systems had actually
                               returned to compliance. We found that EPA had initiated some type of enforcement action in 5 of the
                               remaining 18 pending cases, and in several others, EPA’s decision to forego enforcement action
                               appeared reasonable. For example, four pending cases involved long-term fluoride MCL violations
                               within EPA Region VI. Although EPA regional officials did issue proposed administrative orders in
                               two similar cases, further action had been suspended pending the results of a feasibility study on
                               fluoride removal.



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making site visits, and imposing a boil water order-for  several years.
However, the first state action that was appropriate under EPA guide-
lines did not occur until May 1987, when the state imposed a compliance
schedule. Local residents subsequently failed to approve formation of a
water district, which would have made them eligible for state grant
funds, and thus did not meet compliance schedule milestones. A new
compliance schedule was established in June 1989, and at the same time,
the state exempted the system from microbiological monitoring
requirements.

A state official explained that despite the apparent health risk-of the
few microbiological samples that have been taken, nearly all have tested
positive-the    exemption was granted to show good faith and provide an
incentive for the system to make improvements. He said that the users
know the system is contaminated and have been told to boil their water.
When asked why EPAhad not stepped in on this case, an EPAofficial told
us that as long as the state has taken action and is making progress, the
agency does not interfere.

Discussions with EPAofficials in all three regions confirmed that despite
EPA'sexpanded enforcement authority under the 1986 amendments to
the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPApolicy is generally to defer to the states
on enforcement matters. They told us that the states have the primary
enforcement responsibility and that EPAis reluctant to intervene unless
states request assistance. Region I started issuing formal notices of vio-
lations to all new SNCS beginning in 1988 but otherwise relies on the
states to refer cases for enforcement action. Although Region VI actively
solicits enforcement referrals from its states, the region does not inter-
fere when states do not request its involvement. Region X also relies on
state referrals.

Based on the results of our case reviews, we believe that in light of the
large number of long-term SNCS and the problems with ineffective
enforcement in some states, EPAshould be more aggressive in initiating
enforcement actions itself when state action clearly has been delayed or
ineffective. Beyond the assistance this would provide in returning some
long-term SNCS to compliance, such a stance would emphasize that the
ultimate goal of any enforcement action is to achieve compliance.




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High Compliance Costs          While improving state and EPAenforcement will address some of the
and Other Difficult Issues     long-term compliance problems in the drinking water program, this is by
                               no means a complete solution. Some SNCSpresent intractable problems
Also Hinder Timely             that enforcement actions may not cure-regardless of whether the
Corrective Action              actions meet EPAenforcement criteria. Even where corrective actions are
                               underway, a major project, such as a filtration plant, can take several
                               years to complete. In the meantime, these systems continue to be in non-
                               compliance. Such problems, either individually or in combination, pre-
                               sent significant obstacles to achieving full compliance and help explain
                               why many SNCShave been out of compliance for lengthy periods.

Small Water SystemsHave        The difficulty of paying for needed system improvements was a recur-
Difficulty Paying for Costly   ring issue throughout our case reviews. Although the circumstances in
Corrective Actions             each case were unique, one common element was the small size of most
                               SNCS.Two-thirds of the 75 water systems we reviewed served 500 people
                               or fewer, and 87 percent serve 3,300 people or fewer, percentages that
                               reflect the makeup of the SNCuniverse overall. The small size of these
                               water systems affects their ability to finance corrective actions and, to
                               some extent, compete for grants and loans.

                               In some instances, the resource problems are compounded by water
                               rates that are artificially low because users are not charged the true cost
                               of providing drinking water. However, even substantial increases in
                               water rates may not be enough to finance corrective actions. For exam-
                               ple, in one of our review cases, a water system serving 126 people had to
                               install new water lines, a storage tank, and a water treatment plant to
                               comply with state and federal drinking water regulations. According to
                               the program manager, the system is so poor that three members of the
                               water board had to take out a personal loan to pay for the $2,000 con-
                               struction permit. Total project costs, which were partially funded by the
                               Farmers Home Administration, exceeded $200,000.                                      A
                               Ironically, although the smallest water systems are the least able to
                               afford costly improvements, their size may hurt them when they com-
                               pete for funding, According to the Oklahoma program manager, for
                               example, applicants for state grant assistance are ranked in part on the
                               basis of the number of people affected. Unless an imminent threat to
                               public health exists at a small system, funding for a larger system is
                               more likely to be approved before funding for a small one. Other state
                               officials provided similar information.




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Technical ProblemsCauseDelays States and water systems also face difficult technical issues, particu-
in Achieving compliance       larly when the drinking water contains chemical or radiological contami-
                                    nants. The cost to install treatment can be prohibitive, and, in some
                                    instances, the effectiveness of available treatment technologies is ques-
                                    tionable. For example, according to a Texas program manager, there is
                                    no viable treatment for fluoride contamination.

                                    In other instances, treating the existing source will solve one problem
                                    but may create another. For example, Texas officials said although cer-
                                    tain radiological contaminants can be treated, the water system then has
                                    the problem of disposing of the radioactive waste resulting from the
                                    treatment process. We learned of a similar problem sometimes caused by
                                    chlorination, the process used to disinfect drinking water. Chlorine may
                                    react with organic matter in the water to produce total trihalomethanes
                                    in excess of the MCL.According to the Oklahoma program manager,
                                    changing the primary disinfection agent from free chlorine to chlora-
                                    mines solves the trihalomethane problem, but produces a more persis-
                                    tent chlorine residual, which requires extra precautions from those
                                    using kidney dialysis machines and other users.

                                    When treating the existing water source is financially or technically
                                    infeasible, a water system may have to locate an alternative water
                                    source and pay high costs for drilling new wells or for connecting to
                                    neighboring systems. Here, too, the system may not be guaranteed that
                                    its drinking water problems will be resolved. In one of our case reviews,
                                    a water system contaminated with selenium attempted to resolve the
                                    problem by completing the development of a partially developed well
                                    site it owned. However, this tactic was not successful-the new well not
                                    only exceeded the selenium limit, but also violated the MCI23for arsenic
                                    and radiological contaminants.
                                                                                                                        1,
Difficult Legal IssuesSometimes Another difficult issue arises when state regulators cannot identify a
complicate Enforcement          system owner against whom to take enforcement action. In some
                                    instances, the original owner is no longer present, and the system users
                                    are unwilling to take responsibility for the operation and maintenance
                                    of the facility or for meeting drinking water requirements. Compounding
                                    the problem is the fact that virtually all of the ownership disputes seem
                                    to occur at the very smallest systems, where financing needed improve-
                                    ments presents a major obstacle, even if the users do agree to take
                                    responsibility.

                                    In Washington, program officials told us that many of the ownership
                                    disputes occur at systems that were built by developers. The problems


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              often begin when the developer sells the properties. In some cases, the
              home owners form an association to operate and maintain the water sys-
              tem. Over the years, however, these associations tend to break down,
              while at the same time, the water system deteriorates. Sometimes, users
              deny that there is a “water system” or that they are hooked up to it.
              Another problem is that associations of homeowners are not eligible for
              most of the grant and loan programs available to finance improvements.

              Our case reviews disclosed some unusual tactics employed by state pro-
              gram officials in trying to establish the ownership of systems and to
              achieve compliance. In Washington, for example, the lack of a responsi-
              ble party at one water system led the state to act to put the system into
              receivership. According to state officials, they did so because it was
              highly unlikely that the system owner would be willing or able to make
              the needed improvements. The water system was in poor condition and
              the owner was in jail on an unrelated matter. Although the state
              obtained a default judgment against the system, it is considered uncol-
              lectible because the owner’s assets are negligible. Moreover, the court
              has been unable to appoint a receiver because the fees a receiver could
              collect by operating the system are too small for the system to be
              profitable.


                   counts on its enforcement program to deter violations of drinking
Conclusions   EPA
              water standards and other requirements and to return water systems to
              compliance when such violations do occur. Citing limited EPAand state
              resources, the agency has largely restricted potential targets for timely
              and appropriate enforcement action by states to the most serious viola-
              tors-significant   noncompliers. We found, however, that of the 95 cases
              we reviewed, EPA'Scriteria for timely and appropriate enforcement were
              met as required in 24 cases.                                                           6

              While extenuating circumstances exist in a number of these cases, some
              involve records of chronic violation by water systems that are capable
              of returning to compliance. To deal with such problems, the EPAAdmin-
              istrator announced, in April 1989, that the agency will encourage states
              to increase their number of enforcement actions. Moreover, the Office of
              Drinking Water developed a number of initiatives for fiscal year 1990 to
              strengthen its enforcement program, including a model for escalating
              state and EPAenforcement actions in cases involving water systems with
              chronic violations. While we support these actions, we believe EPAneeds
              to make several fundamental changes in its approach toward enforce-
              ment for these efforts to have their intended effect.


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First, EPAneeds to emphasize to states that actions taken need to be
complete and effective. For example, the large majority of bilateral com-
pliance agreements examined during our file reviews were either not
signed by both parties, as required, or did not contain a compliance
schedule with interim milestones and a final date when compliance will
be achieved. These requirements help ensure that the agreements will be
honored and that corrective actions will proceed as planned. In some
cases, EPAcriteria specify that an enforcement action stronger than a
compliance agreement should have been used because the system in
question had a poor compliance history.

Perhaps of greater concern, a number of enforcement actions that did
meet the EPAcriteria had little or no effect on system compliance. We
found this to be particularly true for civil referrals, which EPAcounts as
appropriate regardless of whether they are filed in court. We believe
that EPAis responsible for helping to ensure that the actions are not only
appropriate according to its guidelines but also effective. Where states
choose to enforce drinking water requirements through civil referrals,
we believe EPAneeds to determine, as part of its annual program review
with the state, whether the state attorney general’s office is willing and
able to act on them.

Many states rely on administrative orders as a more feasible enforce-
ment action to take than civil referrals. However, some state programs
have had limited success in using these actions because the programs do
not have the authority to levy administrative penalties or because the
orders involve cumbersome administrative processes. As part of its
annual program review, EPAneeds to help ensure that states relying on
administrative orders can implement them in a timely manner and
implement them with the necessary “teeth” to be effective.

Second, we believe that EPAneeds to broaden the universe of compliance
problems for which it is willing to take follow-up enforcement action. At
least some regional offices will only follow up on SNCcases when asked
to do so by the state and will assume that a problem is being handled as
long as the state has taken an appropriate action. Our review identified
a number of such cases, however, that were making little or no progress
toward resolution. At least one case presented a potentially serious
health risk.

Still, it is important to realize that improving state and EPAenforcement
is not a complete solution to the program’s compliance problems. As
revealed in our case reviews, some water systems clearly face problems


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                      that cannot be resolved simply through stronger EPAor state enforce-
                      ment. Chief among these problems are the staggering costs some systems
                      face in resolving serious contamination problems-particularly  in the
                      wake of new contaminant limits and other challenges posed by the
                      strengthened requirements of the 1986 amendments to the Safe Drink-
                      ing Water Act. These problems and EPA’Sefforts to help states and water
                      systems deal with them are discussed in the following chapter.


                      To help ensure that state and EPAenforcement actions meet program
Recommendations       requirements and are effective in encouraging water systems’ compli-
                      ance with drinking water program requirements, we recommend that
                      the Administrator do the following:

                  . Direct the Office of Drinking Water to help ensure that state enforce-
                    ment actions meet EPA’Sappropriateness criteria. Specifically, the Office
                    should issue guidance to EPAregions emphasizing that bilateral compli-
                    ance agreements must be signed and must include a compliance schedule
                    with interim milestones, if applicable, and a final date when compliance
                    will be achieved. The guidance should also reiterate that a bilateral com-
                    pliance agreement may not be an appropriate action when the violating
                    water system has had a poor compliance history.
                  . Take steps increasing the prospect that appropriate state enforcement
                    actions will return violating systems to compliance. Specifically, the
                    Administrator should direct EPAregions to examine, as part of their
                    annual program reviews, whether (1) states relying on civil referrals
                    have the resources and commitment needed within the state drinking
                    water program office and the attorney general’s office to ensure that
                    such referrals will be acted upon and (2) states relying on administra-
                    tive orders have a workable procedure to implement them in a timely                    b
                    manner and have sufficient authority to assess penalties as part of the
                    order.
                  l Direct the Office of Drinking Water to revise its enforcement guidance to
                    regions to encourage them to more actively consider EPAfollow-up
                    enforcement action beyond cases referred to EPAby state authorities.
                    This expanded universe of enforcement targets should include cases
                    where state action may have been taken but was not effective in achiev-
                    ing compliance.




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New Drinking Wakr RequirementsWill Pose
Additional Complianceand
Enforcement Challenges
                         As mentioned in chapter 1, the Safe Drinking Water Act, enacted in
                          1974, required EPAto promulgate and periodically revise national drink-
                         ing water regulations for public water systems. The 1986 amendments
                         to the act significantly enhanced EPAand state drinking water program
                         responsibilities, requiring standards for 83 additional contaminants,
                         stringent filtration and disinfection requirements, and increased moni-
                         toring for regulated and unregulated contaminants.

                         Although it is too early to determine total programmatic impacts of the
                         1986 amendments, we found that EPAofficials, state program managers,
                         and representatives of industry and state associations expect the new
                         requirements to have tremendous impacts on local, state, and federal
                         drinking water programs. These individuals pointed out that small
                         water systems will be particularly affected because they already lack
                         the financial and technical resources necessary to implement the
                         existing drinking water requirements. The same people also agreed that
                         without additional resources, compliance and enforcement problems will
                         increase dramatically.


                         The 1986 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act include several
Major Drinking Water     new statutory mandates. Among other things, the amendments require
Requirements             EPAto
Mandated by the 1986     set nonenforceable health goals, commonly called maximum contami-
Amendments           ’   nant level goals, and enforceable maximum contaminant levels or treat-
                         ment techniques for 83 specific contaminants;
                     .   establish criteria by which states determine which surface water sys-
                         tems must install filtration;
                     .   promulgate treatment technique regulations that will require all public
                         water systems to use disinfection;
                     .   establish requirements for water systems to monitor for unregulated
                         contaminants;
                     .   publish a list of contaminants, which are known to occur or anticipated
                         to occur in public water systems and which may require regulation, and
                         set, every 3 years, maximum contaminant level goals and MCLs for at
                         least 25 contaminants on the list; and
                     .   develop corrosion control treatment requirements to minimize lead and
                         copper deposits from plumbing materials such as lead pipes, solder, flux,
                         or fittings.




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                           Enforcement Challenges




                           EPAhas thus far issued final or proposed regulations for most of the new
EPA Has Proposed or        drinking water requirements. Agency officials expect all of the new
Promulgated                drinking water regulations to be promulgated and in effect by mid- to
Regulations for Most       late 1994.
New Drinking Water         As of December 31, 1989, EPAhad issued final regulations for 15 of the
Requirements               83 contaminants, the surface water filtration criteria (also called the
                           surface water treatment rule), disinfection treatment of surface water
                           systems, and the monitoring of 51 unregulated contaminants. The
                           agency had also issued in final form, the list of contaminants that may
                           require regulation (also called the drinking water priority list). EPAhad
                           also proposed regulations for an additional 40 contaminants, treatment
                           techniques for controlling lead and copper corrosion in plumbing materi-
                           als, and monitoring requirements for an additional 100 unregulated
                           contaminants.

                           At the completion of our review, EPAofficials were developing regula-
                           tions for the remaining 28 of the 83 contaminants, disinfection treat-
                           ment of groundwater systems, and monitoring requirements for other
                           unregulated contaminants. They were also developing regulations to
                           control disinfection by-products, which can result from the disinfection
                           of surface water and groundwater supplies. EPAplans to issue proposed
                           regulations for these activities sometime in 1991 and final regulations in
                           1992.


                           These regulations will significantly increase program responsibilities for
ResourceConstraints        water systems, states, and EPA.According to information obtained from
Will Increase              EPAand state officials, EPA'Spublished cost analyses, and the results of
Compliance and             studies conducted by representatives of water systems and states, the
                           new requirements will cost millions of dollars to implement in coming
                                                                                                                a
Enforcement Problems       years. As discussed below, these new costs will place considerable finan-
                           cial strain on many water systems and states, and will ultimately affect
                           EPA'Sability to implement the program.


Impacts on Water Systems   Under the 1986 amendments, water systems must adhere to more strin-
                           gent water treatment, monitoring, and reporting requirements. Accord-
                           ing to EPAofficials, many systems will have to install new equipment or
                           modernize their infrastructure (i.e., distribution, storage, treatment, lab-
           ”               oratory, and monitoring facilities) to comply with some of the new stan-
                           dards, particularly the new filtration requirement. Also, some systems
                           will have to contract with certified laboratories to perform complicated


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                                        analytical services and hire skilled operators to take water samples and
                                        operate their facilities. EPAofficials told us that these changes or
                                        improvements will be very expensive to many systems.

                                        Table 4.1 summarizes EPA'Slatest available estimates of the number of
                                        community and noncommunity water systems affected by the new
                                        drinking water requirements and the total annual costs for implement-
                                        ing these requirements. It shows that compliance by water systems is
                                        projected to cost about $2.5 billion annually.1 EPAofficials stated that
                                        the numbers of water systems affected by each requirement and the
                                        annual compliance costs will probably be higher than the agency’s esti-
                                        mates because the estimates (1) assume systems affected are in compli-
                                        ance with existing regulatory standards; (2) do not include costs for
                                        removing lead pipes and other plumbing fixtures, which is required
                                        under the lead and copper corrosion rule; and (3) do not include costs
                                        for regulating all 83 contaminants or costs for disinfecting surface water
                                        and groundwater supplies and controlling disinfection by-products.

Table 4.1: Estimated Annual Costs to
Water Systems for Implementing 1986     1986 Dollars_______-
                                                      in millions
Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water                                                               Annualized           Average
Act                                                                                Number of                               annual        Total annual
                                                                                    systems                %cti         monitoring        compliance
                                        -Rule
                                          .-- -~---_I               .-              affected                cost9             cost               cost
                                        Volatile    organic     chemicals               1,824                $32.7          -_____
                                                                                                                              $23.1__-                $55.8
                                                                    --___                                                                 ..-----_-
                                        Filtration                                     10,228                511.6             17.1                   528.6
                                        -__--..-.
                                        Total coliforms                              200.183                        0          75.2                    75.2
                                        Synthetic     organic     chemicals             2,284                 45.4             32.2                    77.5
                                                                                                    .___
                                        Inorganic
                                              --.--___._-chemicals                      1,896                123.2             12.4                   135.6
                                                                                                                               -
                                        Lead/coPoer          corrosion   control       43.927                302.2             32.9                   335.2
                                        ..--z-___--
                                                                                                             790.3          -____
                                        Radionuclides-_~-___--                         22,867                              -____ 2.6            792.9
                                        Disinfection                                  103,354                474.8             12.8 --__-- ---487.7           b
                                                                                                                                         ____--
                                                                                                b
                                        Total                                                          $2.280.2             $208.3         $2.488.5

                                        Note: According to an economist in EPA’s Office of Drinking Water, EPA presented its estimates in 1986
                                        dollars to ensure consistency. Most estimates presented here result from regulatory and economic anal-
                                        yses EPA conducted in late 1986 and early 1987. Dollars are rounded to the nearest 100,000.
                                        “Figures in this column include the estimated annualized costs over 20 years at a lo-percent discount
                                        rate and 1 year of annual operation and maintenance (O&M) expenses.

                                        “The number of water systems affected can not be added together because some systems WIII be
                                        affected by multiple rules.




                                         ‘Figures presented for water suppliers were taken from EPA’s report Estimates of the Total Benefits
                                         and Total Costs Associated With Implementation of the 1986 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water
                                        -Act (Mar. 16, 1989).



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                                 EPAofficials project that nearly all of the nation’s 68,000 community
                                 water systems and the over 219 million customers they serve will be
                                 affected by one or more of the new regulations. The impacts on individ-
                                 ual systems and consumers will vary depending on the applicable regu-
                                 lations and treatment requirements. The new filtration requirement is
                                 expected to be particularly costly to many water systems and, therefore,
                                 can cause increases in consumers’ monthly water bills. For instance, EPA
                                 currently estimates that an average household receiving water from a
                                 small community water system that does not filter its water will see its
                                 monthly water bill increase by $30 to $50 when filtration costs are
                                 added. For the same size household served by a large system, EPAesti-
                                 mates that filtration will add $6 per monthm2

Largest Impacts on Small Water   A 1988 survey by the League of Women Voters Education Fund” found
SJYWIIS                          that many systems currently have serious financial problems that pre-
                                 vent adequate maintenance and treatment of their drinking water sup-
                                 plies. In most states, more than 90 percent of these troubled systems are
                                 classified as small systems. EPA'Scost estimates show that compliance
                                 with the new drinking water requirements will affect water systems of
                                 all sizes; however, small systems will have greater difficulties meeting
                                 the new challenges. EPAofficials explain that these small systems, which
                                 already account for more than 90 percent of current drinking water vio-
                                 lations, lack the financial and technical resources needed to manage a
                                 water system. The EPAofficials expect that the addition of new drinking
                                 water requirements, many of which will pose increased technical chal-
                                 lenges, will only exacerbate problems for small systems.

                                 EPAofficials also suggested to us that such difficulties  will inevitably
                                 increase compliance problems among small water systems. The problems
                                 officials are expecting include water systems that exceed MCLstandards,                                    a
                                 fail to install required filtration equipment, do not perform required
                                 monitoring, or fail to take measures to prevent lead or copper corrosion.



                                 “In contrast, EPA predicts that the monthly water bill for the same size household served by a small
                                 system that already filters its water will increase by an average of $2 to $6per month, and house-
                                 holds served by a large system that already filters its water will see their bills increase by about $1.
                                 EPA’s analysis assumes that the average household contains 2.8 people and that each person uses 100
                                 gallons of water per day.

                                 %onducted between December 1987 and June 1988, the League of Women Voters’ survey was
                                 designed to identify the impact that complying with the 1986 amendments will have on water sys-
                                 tems and states. The respondents included 672 local water officials in 49 states and state drinking
                                 water administrators in all 60 states and the Virgin Islands. The survey sample was composed mostly
                                 of larger water systems.



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                    Enforcement Challenges




                    In addition, our contacts with state and EPAprogram managers suggest
                    that the new requirements may lead some financially pressed water sys-
                    tems to find ways to avoid incurring additional expenditures. As noted
                    in chapter 2, officials in all of the states we visited cited instances in
                    which they detected or strongly suspected that water systems had falsi-
                    fied compliance data to make it appear that the systems were complying
                    with drinking water requirements. While these officials believe such
                    practices are not widespread, the incentives to engage in them will
                    increase when expensive new regulations such as the filtration require-
                    ments take effect.


Impacts on States   Just as the 1986 amendments increased responsibilities for water sys-
                    tems, they also increased responsibilities for state drinking water pro-
                    grams. Among these new responsibilities is the authority to decide (1)
                    the amount of monitoring water systems must conduct for regulated and
                    unregulated contaminants, (2) which water systems must install filtra-
                    tion, (3) the vulnerability of water systems to certain types of contami-
                    nation, and (4) when to issue variances and exemptions to the new
                    requirements.

                    In 1988 EPAand the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators
                    conducted a joint survey to obtain estimates of staff and funding
                    resources states will need to implement the existing requirements and
                    those established in the 1986 amendments.4 Twenty-one of the 36
                    responding states reported that their resources are inadequate to meet
                    current program requirements. Thirty-three of the states said that they
                    have had to limit their drinking water program activities over the past 6
                    years because of insufficient funding and/or staffing.

                    According to the survey, it would cost states approximately $129 million
                    annually to fully implement existing drinking water program require-
                    ments.” Of this total, $32 million is currently provided through federal
                    grants and $63 million through state funding. The remaining $34 million
                    represents the funding shortfall states said they have trying to comply
                    with existing program requirements.



                    4A detailed questionnaire was sent to all states and territories. The 36 states and one territory that
                    responded regulate approximately 78 percent of all community water systems.

                    “Because all U.S. states and territories did not respond to the survey, EPA and the Association ex-
                    trapolated the results from the responding states and territory to obtain national estimates.



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                                                                                                                       ,:.I
                                                                                                                       f ;.
                                                                                                                             .

                                                                                                                            ‘-      1
                                          Chapter 4
                                          New Drinking Water Requirements Will Pose
                                          AddItional Compliance and
                                          Enforcement Challenges




                                          As table 4.2 indicates, the survey estimates that states will need over
                                          $186 million between 1987 and 1992 for onetime start-up costs to begin
                                          implementing many of the new requirements. After 1992, they will need
                                          approximately $152 million per year to meet the new requirements.
                                          According to EPAdrinking water officials, states’ initial and annual costs
                                          will actually be much higher because states’ estimates, like those of the
                                          water systems discussed earlier, only include estimates for regulations
                                          EPAhas promulgated or proposed and, therefore, do not include the cost
                                          of regulating all 83 contaminants or complying with the new disinfection
                                          treatment and disinfection by-product requirements.

Table 4.2: Estimated Initial and Annual
Costs to States for Implementing 1988     1988 Dollars in millions
Amendments to the Safe Drinklng Water     -__                                                Initial implementation     Total annual costs
Act                                       Rule                                                     costs (1987-l 992)          (after 1992)
                                          Volatile organic chemicals                                             $18                     $17
                                          Filtration                                                              39                      14
                                          Total coliforms                                                         18                      18
                                          Inorganic and synthetic organic -
                                              chemicals                                                           21                      17
                                          Lead/copper
                                          --        __- corrosion control                                         47                      38
                                          Radionuclides                                                           20                      13
                                          ---
                                          Others (sanitary surveys/inspections
                                              and data entry/reporting)                                          22                       35
                                          Total                                                                $185                     $15i
                                          Note: Dollars are rounded to the nearest million

                                          According to the survey results, state officials expect the lead/copper
                                          corrosion control and filtration requirements to be the most costly and
                                          to absorb the largest portion of their financial resources during the ini-
                                          tial years. Other major program expenditures will include costs for con-                             6
                                          ducting sanitary surveys, identifying and classifying water systems
                                          requiring filtration, performing assessments of systems’ vulnerability to
                                          contamination, expanding laboratory capabilities, and taking formal
                                          enforcement actions. Also, state officials indicated that more resources
                                          will have to be dedicated to enforcement during the later years if water
                                          systems do not get additional resources to implement existing and new
                                          program requirements.

Important State Activities Could          Faced with resource shortages of this magnitude, some states may have
Be Reduced y                              to shift their work priorities or further limit some program activities to
                                          implement the existing and new requirements. According to EPAofficials
                                          and the results of the study conducted by EPAand the Association of



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                 State Drinking Water Administrators, the activities most states identi-
                 fied as “very likely to be limited” include staff training and develop-
                 ment, special studies, and public participation and education. States also
                 indicated they may limit their enforcement efforts, laboratory capabili-
                 ties, and inspections/sanitary surveys because of scarce resources. Such
                 forecasts are particularly disturbing in light of our findings in chapter 2
                 that more consistent use of such activities is central to any effort to
                 improve compliance and better protect public health from contaminated
                 drinking water.

                 According to EPAheadquarters and regional officials, too, resource
                 shortages will exacerbate the kind of enforcement problems we identi-
                 fied in chapter 3. Many states will be forced to target a smaller percent-
                 age of violators and will be less able to take appropriate enforcement
                 actions against known violators in a timely manner.


Impacts on EPA   According to EPAofficials, the 1986 amendments had a tremendous
                 impact on EPAimmediately after Congress passed the law, requiring the
                 agency to prepare and implement regulations for 83 contaminants and
                 other requirements. They said that the amendments’ future impacts
                 depend on whether states and water systems get the additional
                 resources needed for their drinking water programs. If states and sys-
                 tems obtain sufficient resources, EPA'Srole will be limited to overall pro-
                 gram management and oversight activities. If they do not, EPAwill have
                 to get involved more directly in program activities such as developing
                 state regulations and guidance, monitoring water systems’ compliance
                 efforts, and taking appropriate enforcement actions when necessary.

                 According to EPAdrinking water officials, a further complication,
                 reported by some state officials, is that overwhelming program costs
                 may lead their states to return primacy to EPA.Although no state has
                 officially initiated such action, the EPAofficials indicated that this possi-
                 bility is a growing concern within the agency-particularly      with regard
                 to states that are already having serious financial problems implement-
                 ing existing drinking water requirements. The officials assert that if EPA
                 has to carry out all or portions of the states’ program responsibilities
                 because the states either return primacy or cannot implement their pro-
                 grams fully, EPA,too, will face severe implementation problems.




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                           Spurred by the agency’s growing concern with the resource shortfall
EPA Efforts to Help        (both within the drinking water program and agencywide), EPAcon-
Water Systems and          ducted two studies to identify alternative financing mechanisms states
States Ok&in               and water systems can use to generate additional funds for their pro-
                           grams. The first study, conducted in 1988 by EPA’SOffice of Policy, Plan-
Additional Resources       ning, and Evaluation, identified states’ current use of such methods to
                           support a variety of environmental programs.” The second study, initi-
                           ated in May 1988 by EPA’SOffice of Water and completed in late 1989,
                           identified financing alternatives that can be used to meet resource needs
                           for complying with existing and new drinking water requirements.

                           Both studies showed that states are increasingly using alternate financ-
                           ing mechanisms-such as fees, taxes, bonds, fines, and penalties-to
                           generate additional revenues for their environmental programs. The
                           revenues derived from the options varied in amounts from state to state
                           and program to program. Nevertheless, fees were found to be the most
                           widely used option.

                           Complementing these analyses is a more direct effort by EPA’S Office of
                           Drinking Water to mobilize state and local governments, water systems,
                           and private organizations to use creative approaches to find additional
                           resources for state and local drinking water programs. Under its “Mobil-
                           ization Strategy,” the Office plans, among other things, to

                       . educate state decision makers (i.e., governors, legislators, public health
                         and environmental officials, and budget officials) about the need for
                         additional resources;
                       l help operators of small systems understand the new drinking water
                         requirements, provide training and technical assistance through a vari-
                         ety of existing networks, and assist the systems in obtaining additional                                  a
                         resources from larger systems and private organizations;
                       l identify readily available low-cost technological solutions for water sys-
                         tems, particularly small systems, to use in order to comply fully with
                         the new regulations; and
                       l better inform the general public of health risks associated with contami-
                         nated drinking water and the importance of maintaining safe drinking
                         water supplies (to generate support for higher water rates).




                           “The study included eleven states: Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey,
                           Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The final report, entitled States Use Of Alternative
                           Financing Mechanisms In Environmental Programs, was issued in June 1988.



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Nem lhhking Water Requirements Wffl Pose
Additional Compliance and
Jhforcement   Challenges




Now that most of the new regulations have been either proposed or
promulgated, EPAofficials said that they have begun shifting their
efforts more toward the mobilization strategy. They added that EPAis
strongly encouraging states and water systems to use alternative financ-
ing mechanisms and the mobilization initiatives, respectively, to meet
their resource needs.

Representatives of water systems and states told us, however, that
while they agreed that financing alternatives and EPA'Smobilization
strategy will help to generate additional revenue for environmental pro-
grams, they are skeptical about whether these activities will generate
enough funds to meet future program needs. These representatives told
us that even under the best of circumstances, alternative financing
mechanisms and the mobilization initiatives will not generate enough
revenue to cover all existing and new drinking water program
expenditures.

Nevertheless, while such activities may not offer a complete solution to
the financial challenges facing the program, our fieldwork confirmed the
usefulness of alternative financing in supporting vital program ele-
ments. Texas, for example, which, as noted in chapter ‘2, has the most
comprehensive sanitary survey program among the states we visited,
pays for the surveys through an annual fee charged to water systems.
The fee also covers other state services such as the collection and analy-
sis of chemical samples and technical assistance. Fees range from $50
for water systems with 1 to 49 service connections to $5,000 for systems
with 200,000 or more connections. According to the Texas state program
manager, because systems pay for the surveys as part of the annual fee,
they actually press the state to conduct them in a timely fashion to be
sure they get their money’s worth.

Alternative financing also benefits Texas’ enforcement program. As dis-
cussed in chapter 3, Texas chooses to rely on resource-intensive civil
referrals rather than administrative orders. The state attorney general’s
office, staffed with 8 to 10 attorneys specifically dedicated to handle
drinking water cases, has been highly successful in bringing civil actions
in drinking water cases. Under a 1983 state law, the attorney general’s
office is credited with a portion of the income it generates in fines and
penalties to cover reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs. In the




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                             :.,
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              Chapter 4
              New Drinking Water Requirements Will Pose
              Additional Compliance and
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              drinking water program, penalty assessments have been substantial,
              totalling over $165,000 in fiscal year 1989 alones

              In contrast, states without such financing schemes have had to cut back
              on vital program elements. As noted in chapter 2, funding constraints
              have forced Washington to discontinue sanitary surveys. A 1988 con-
              sultant report also warned that the state’s drinking water program staff
              will need to double to carry out its responsibilities adequately after the
              regulations under the 1986 amendments take effect. In addition to rec-
              ommending increased support from the state general fund, the report
              recommended that program staff investigate “the development of user
              funding” to support various program activities.


              As required by the 1986 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act,
Conclusions   EPAhas issued or proposed many new regulations that will significantly
              affect EPA,states, and nearly all of the nation’s 58,000 community water
              systems. Although actual impacts of the new drinking water require-
              ments will not be known until all new regulations become effective,
              water systems (particularly small systems) are expected to incur enor-
              mous financial costs and face difficult new compliance challenges.
              Already facing huge gaps between program costs and available funding,
              states will see their own regulatory costs increase by hundreds of mil-
              lions of dollars annually. With water systems and states both experienc-
              ing increased difficulties implementing the program, EPAalso expects a
              correspondingly greater burden on its own resources.

              While we emphasize in chapter 3 that improved enforcement is needed
              to encourage better compliance among water systems, EPA'Salternative
              financing efforts reflect the reality that better enforcement alone will                                 8
              not do the job. Additional resources will be needed to increase water
              testing, perform sanitary surveys, train operators, and perform a vari-
              ety of other activities needed to ensure the safety of the nation’s drink-
              ing water. While EPA'Salternative financing efforts are by no means a
              complete answer to the resource question, our own fieldwork suggests
              that these efforts offer some hope that vital program activities can be
              funded.




              7Through April 1989, Texas had assessed$168,660 in penalties. According to program officials, the
              attorney general’s office historically has collected approximately 90 percent of the amounts assessed.



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                    __i
Ppe

k$krse Health Effects AssociatedWith ’ ‘*
Ingesting ContaminatedDrinking Water

              According to officials from EPA and the Centers for Disease Control
              (CDC),over 600 contaminants have been detected in the nation’s drinking
              water supplies. Some of the contaminants (such as fluoride, cadmium,
              and arsenic) occur naturally in drinking water, while others (such as
              alachlor and chlordane) are man-made. Generally man-made contami-
              nants get into drinking water supplies through improper waste disposal,
              broken or faulty plumbing fixtures, agricultural runoff, leaks from
              underground gasoline and petroleum storage tanks, and discharges from
              power plants or medical facilities.

              According to EPA and CDC officials, the type of health problems that can
              result from consuming contaminated drinking water depend on the con-
              taminant, level of contamination in the water, susceptibility of the per-
              son consuming the water, and length of time a person consumed the
              contaminated water. Overall, EPA officials classify known and/or sus-
              pected health problems into three broad categories: acute, chronic, and
              carcinogenic effects.

              Acute health effects result mainly from microbiological contamination.
              EPA officials told us that the effects usually appear from 1 hour to sev-
              eral days after ingestion. Gastroenteritis is the most common acute ill-
              ness associated with ingesting contaminated drinking water. Other acute
              effects include headaches, vomiting, mild stomach cramps, mild cases of
              diarrhea, fatigue, and nausea. These symptoms generally last only a few
              hours or days and, for the most part, disappear without professional
              medical treatment.

              Chronic health effects generally appear after longer incubation periods.
              EPA and CDC officials told us that these effects may not appear until
              years later and still not be attributed to contaminated drinking water.
              The most commonly known chronic health effects include hepatitis, and               .
              damage to the liver, kidneys, heart, and other body organs/systems.

              The most dangerous potential health effects involve contaminants that
              cause carcinogenic effects. These effects are the most difficult to detect
              and attribute to contaminated drinking water. Most information avail-
              able on the chronic and carcinogenic health effects is based on the
              results of laboratory tests performed on animals.

              The following table lists 66 of the 83 contaminants EPA must regulate in
              accordance with the 1986 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act,
              and the known or suspected adverse health effects associated with



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                                   :‘,.    .,,                                    .,’   ~,
                                                      Appendix 1
                                                      Adverse Health Effects Associated With
                                                      Ingesting Contaminated Drinking Water




                                                      them. At the time of our review, EPA had not identified the adverse
                                                      health effects associated with the remaining 17 contaminants.


Table 1.1: Adverse Health Effects A88OCiatad With Drinking Water Contaminant8
Contaminant                                 Adverse health effects
tiolatile organic chemicals                  _-.-   -...--.- ._--
1. Benzene                                                       Central nervous system effects, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting; also increases the risk of
                                                                 leukemia
2. Carbon Tetrachloride                                          Liver, kidney, and lung effects;   -.-- also is a possible cancer-causing agent
3. 1,2.Dichloroethane                                            Heart, liver, kidney, and central nervous and circulatory system effects; also is a possible
                                                                 cancer-causing agent
4.. Para:Dichlorobenzene                                         Kidney, liver, and central nervous, pulmonary, and circulatory system effects; also is a
                                                                 possible cancer-causing agent
5. l,l-Drchloroethylene                 -.                 .-    Heart, liver, kidney, and central nervous system effects; also is a possible cancer-causing
                                                                 agent                              _ -..- ..--.~-.-
6. Tetradhloroethytene                                           Liver, kidney, and central nervous system effects; also is a possible cancer-causing agent
7. 1,l ,l ,-Trichloroethane                                      Liver, central nervous and circulatory system effects
8. Trichloroethylene                                             Heart, liver, kidney, and central nervous system effects; also is a possible cancer-causing
                         ._....-.    .-.    .- - -.-__- -._---.  agent.._. ._..-- .-.---.-~-..~--_-
9.. Vr.nyl &&ride                                                Kidney, liver, and central nervous, cardiovascular, and pulmonary system effects
10. CIS-1 ZDrchloroethylene                                      Central nervous system,          liver, and kidney effects
                                                                                             .._I_-..
11. Trans-1,2, Dichloroethylene .          - -.-. -- .._- __---_
                                      _._._.                     Central    nervous    system,    liver,  and kidney effects
12.  Chlorobenzene
“.. __~. .” .._.._---.---.-.-. .--...                            Central    nervous    system,
                                             _.-...-.._..--- --.- ~-.- -.-...-. ..._.~~.          liver,  and kidney effects
Microbiological        contaminants and turbidity
13. Total Coliforms                                        Although not necessarily disease-producing organisms, coliforms can be indicators of other
                                                           organisms that cause assorted gastroenteric infections, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid fever,
   _                                                       and cholera.
14. Grardia Lambliaa                                       Gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea and abdominal cramps
15. Viruses,’                                              Gastroenteritis, diarrhea, ..-- meningitis,
                                                                                             -.___     and paralysis
16. Turbrdity”                                             Interference with disinfection
17. Standard Plate Count” (Heterotrophic                   Diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, and fatigue
....bactena      count) -.. _
     ..- ._ .. _.-..          -- . ._-.._-..-~... ~- --._-     ~. -..... - -... - --..-.....
18. Legionella*’                                           Diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, and fatigue
Inorganic chemical8                                                                                                                     -
19. Asbksios                                          Benign tumors and, possibly, cancer of the stomach and pancreas
20. Barium        .-                                  Gastrointestinal distress, hypertension, neuromuscular and cardiovascular system effects
21, cadmium                                           Kidney and liver damage, gastrointestinal distress, anemia, hypertension, renal dysfunction,
          _       __                                  and bone damage
22. Chromium                                          Respiratory disorders, internal hemorrhaae (bleeding), liver and kidney damage, nausea,
                                                      vom’iting, and gastrointestinal effects        - .       -’
23. Mercury                                           Gastrointestinal distress; kidney failure; and central nervous system effects, such as hearing
                                                      impairments and speech and mental disturbances
24. N&ate                                             “Blue Baby Syndrome” (i.e., asphyxiation by altering the oxygen-carrying capacity of the
                                                      blood system), neuromuscular~..~~.. effects, kidney and central nervous system effects
                                                                                                                                             (continued)




                                                      Page 63             GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
                                                                                                                             -\       -*
                                           Appendix I
                                           Advert Health Effects Associated With
                                           Ingesting Contaminated Drinking Water




Contaminant                                Adverse health effects
                                                           ---___
25 Nitrite”.                               Same adverse health effects as for nitrate
26 Selenium                                Lesions of the heart, kidneys, and spleen; heart, liver, kidney, gastrointestinal and
                            -. ~-~~__.-_   neurological effects
27 Arsenic                                 Heoatic and kidnev damaae and nervous svstem effects
28 FkJOrlde                                Skeletal damage and dental ____---
                                                                         fluorosis, i.e., brown staining or pitting of permanent teeth
29 Anttmony                                Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps ~-
30. Nickel                                 Gastrointestinal oroblems
31 Sulfate                                 Diarrhea; gastroenteritis; and dehydration, particularly in infants
32 Lead                                    Delays in neurological and physical development, brain damage, peripheral nerve
                                           dysfunction, increased blood pressure, low birth weight, and kidney and central nervous
                                           system effects
33. Copper                                 Gastrointestinal disturbances; anemia; and liver, kidney, and renal damage
34 Cyanide                                 Hyperventilation, vomiting, tremors, convulsions, and death.                                       -
Organic chemicals
35 Endnn                                   Kidney and nervous system effects, convulsions, headaches, dizziness, sleeplessness,
                                           weakness, and/or loss of appetite
36 Alachlor                                Liver effects and tumors in lungs, stomach, and thyroids; also is a possible cancer-causing
                                           agent
37 Atrazlne                                Nervous system, liver, and heart effects                                                           --
38 Chlordane                               Liver and central nervous svstem effects: also is a oossible cancer-causina aaent
39 Dibromochloropropane (DBCP)             Kidney, liver, and antifertility effects; also is a possible cancer-causing agent
40 1,2-Dlchloropropane (DCP)               Liver, lung, and kidney effects; also is a possible cancer-causing agent
41 2,4-D                                   Liver and kidney effects, skeletal muscular changes, and muscular incoordination
42 EplchlorohydrW                          Kidney, central nervous system, lung, and liver effects; infertility; possibly cancer
43 Ethylene dlbromide                      Lung, liver, spleen, kidney, and central nervous system effects; also is a possible cancer-
                                           causing agent
44 Llndane                                 c&tral nervous system, liver, and kidney effects
45 Methoxychlor                            Central nervous, liver, kidney, and reproductive system effects
46 Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)        Liver and reproductive and nervous system effects; also is a possible cancer-causing .~agent
47 Pentachlorophenol                       Liver, kidney, and central nervous and reproductive system effects                         --
48 Tolucne                                 Speech, v&ion, andh~~blems;                  impaired memory; and kidney, lung, liver, and central
                                           nervous system effects                                           -                                       6
49 Toxaphene                               Central nervous system, liver, and kidney effects; also is a possible-~ cancer-causing
                                                                                                                             ---.    agent
                                                                                                                                    ____-.
50 Acrylamlde,’                            Peripheral nerve and muscular damage, tumors; also is a possible cancer-causing agent
51 Ethylbenzene”                           Liver, kidney, and nervous system effects/disorders
52 Heptachlor epoxlde”                     Central nervous system disturbances and altered liver functions; also is a possible cancer-
                                           causing agent
53   Carbofuran                            Drow&ess, c%%&~%xiety,               vomiting, and nervous and reproductive system effects
54   Aldlcarb Sulfoxlde”                   N&ous system effects
55   Aldlcarb Sulfone”                     Nervous system eifkcts                                                                        -.-
56   2,4,5-TP (Silvex)                     Stomach irritation, depression, and kidney and liver effects
57   Xylene                                Central nervous system and liver effects
58   Styrenc”          il                  Central nervous system and liver effects; also is a possible cancer-causing agent
                                                                                                                                   ,     ..    a\
                                                                                                                                   (conrinuea)




                                           Page 64            GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
                                             Appendix I
                                             Adveme Health Effecta Asao&t,d   With
                                             Ingesting Contaminated Drinking Water




Contaminant                                  Adverse health effects     ______-___
59. “l.lll
     2,3,7,&TCDD        (Dioxin)
           I .I ._“__.._..
                         - ..-.._-.-..-.--   Liver damage          ----
60. Heptachlor”                              Central nervous system and liver effects; also is a possible cancer-causing         agent
61.  Aldicarb
.-~..~__.-.                                  Central nervous system effects
Radionuclides
--l-l.-“------.-.    ~--




62.   Radium 226 and 228
-_---------~--                               Bone cancer
63.
...--~Beta particle and photon               Cancer of the lungs, bones, head cavities, and leukemia
64.
_~--Uranium                                  Kidney effects and cancer in skeletal tissues
65. Gross aloha particle activitv            Cancer
66. Radon                                    Lung cancer
                                             aTreatment techniques have been proposed in lieu of an MCL for this contaminant.
                                             bThe 1986 amendments allow EPA to substitute up to seven contaminants if regulation of the substi-
                                             tuted contaminants would achieve greater protection of public health. On January 13, 1988, this con-
                                             taminant was added as a substitute to the list of 83 contaminants.




                                    Y




                                             Page 66            GAO/RCED-99-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
                                                                                         ,
Appe ndix II

Scopeand Methodology for Review of Stat6’ “
Enforcement Cases

                      As discussed in chapter 1, we reviewed a judgmental sample of 96 SNC
                      violations at 75 community water systems located in six states. The
                      objective of our review was to examine the states’ enforcement perform-
                      ance. Accordingly, we designed our review to include all possible catego-
                      ries of cases. Individual review cases within each category were selected
                      randomly. The following sections provide more detailed information on
                      the selection of specific cases for our review. Our results represent only
                      the cases reviewed and not all significant noncompliance cases
                      nationwide.


                      Because a nationwide sample was not feasible given time and resource
Six States Selected   constraints, we visited six states to gain insights into drinking water
                      program enforcement. We selected two states in each of three geographi-
                      cally dispersed regions-Massachusetts      and Vermont, in Region I;
                      Oklahoma and Texas, in Region VI; and Oregon and Washington, in
                      Region X-and planned to review at least 15 cases within each state.


                      We chose 1987 as the base year for our review because we wanted to
Universe for Our      include cases that were initiated after EPA'Senforcement policy was
Review Included All   implemented in October 1986. In addition, we wanted SNCviolations that
Types of SNC          were as recent as possible without being so new that one would not
                      expect the states to have responded. We decided that selecting SNCviola-
Violations            tions identified during 1987 would allow sufficient time for state and
                      EPAenforcement actions to occur.

                      Our universe of SNCviolations was compiled from September 30, 1987,
                      SNClists that EPAgenerated from its data management system for all six
                      states. These lists included SNCviolations involving (1) monitoring and
                                                                                                          a
                      MCLviolations for turbidity and microbiological contaminants, (2) moni-
                      toring violations for total trihalomethane contaminants, and (3) MCL vio-
                      lations for chemical and radiological contaminants (including total
                      trihalomethanes). The EPAdata were incomplete, however, because the
                      agency’s data management system cannot identify SNCviolations result-
                      ing from noncompliance with chemical and radiological monitoring
                      requirements. (See chapter 2 for further discussion.) Thus, to include
                      these SNCSin our universe, we relied upon data that the states supplied
                      to EPA.EPAcompiled this data and determined that these SNCSwere iden-
                      tified as of January 1987. Although this SNClist was developed 9 months
                      earlier than the September 30, 1987, SNClists generated by EPA,using it
                      was the most feasible way to ensure that our universe included all types
                      of sNc violations.


                      Page 00       GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
         (F
     .



                         Appendix II
                         Scope and Methodology for Review of State
                         Rnfomment Cases




                         We also wanted to ensure that our enforcement reviews included all
Reporting Categories     types of cases. Based on the reporting categories used in EPA'Stracking
for Enforcement          system, several types of cases were possible:
Review               . The state could have taken one of four enforcement actions deemed
                       appropriate under EPA'Senforcement policy: bilateral compliance agree-
                       ment (EGA),administrative order (AO), civil referral (CR), or criminal
                       filing.
                     . The water system could have returned to compliance (RTC).'
                     . The case could be classified as “none of the previous” (or pending),
                       denoting that the water system had neither returned to compliance nor
                       been subject to an appropriate state enforcement action.

                         The review cases selected are presented in Table II. 1 by reporting cate-
                         gory and by state. For each reporting category, “U” designates the uni-
                         verse of SNCS,and “R” represents the number of SNCSreviewed during
                         our analysis.




                         'UnderEPA'sdefinition, a system may be categorized as returned to compliance if, in the case of the
                         microbiological and turbidity contaminants, the system has no monitoring or MCL violations for a
                         period of 6 consecutive months. For the chemical and radiological contaminants, a system may be
                         categorized as returned to compliance if it has conducted the required monitoring and if the test
                         results show that the water quality is within the MCL.



                         Page 67            GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
                                       Appendtx D[                                                                             I       -,
                                       &ope and Methodology for Review of State
                                       Enforcement Cases




Table 11.1:Review Cases by Reporting
Category and by State                                               Number of cases by reporting category
                                       State                    RTC     BCA         A0          Civil     Pending                       Total
                                                                URURURURUR                                                               UR
                                       MA                      0       0      0       0     2       2      0      0   2         2      4           4
                                       OK                      8       3      3       3     1       1      1      1  26         7a   39           15
                                       OR                    215       2b    40       4a   15       5      0      0  16         5c 286            16
                                       TX                     20       4      0       0     1       Od     2      2 105        12a 128            18
                                       VT                      4       4      6       6     0       0      0      0   5         9     15          15
                                       WA                    206       2b     6       4    27      11      3      3 313         7a 555            27
                                       Total                 453      15     55     17     46     19       6      6 467        38 1.027           95
                                       “We initially selected an additional case for review in this category, but eliminated one case because it
                                       did not qualify as a SNC violation as of the end of fiscal year 1987.

                                       ‘We initially selected two additional cases for review in this category, but eliminated two because they
                                       did not qualify as SNC violations as of the end of fiscal year 1987.
                                       “We rnrtially selected seven cases for review, but eliminated two because the water systems did not
                                       qualify as community water systems.
                                       “We selected thus case for review, but found that the administrative order was issued by EPA and not
                                       the state. We actually revrewed thts case as a pending case, and it is included in the total reviewed in
                                       that category.

                                       “We rnrtially selected an additional case for review, but eliminated one case because the water system
                                       did not qualify as a community water system.


                                       For each of the six states selected for review, we (1) obtained state
                                       follow-up reports2 applicable to the SNC lists in our universe, (2)
                                       recorded the status of each case as reported by the state, and (3) sorted
                                       this data base by reporting category. Since none of the six states
                                       reported any criminal actions during our sample period, we sorted the
                                       SNC violations into the other five categories and then selected our review
                                       cases.
                                                                                                                                                       a

                                       Our plan was to select at least 15 cases in each of the six states we vis-
SNC Violation                          ited. The 15 cases selected within a state were to include three randomly
Selection Method                       selected cases from each of the five available reporting categories. How-
                                       ever, Massachusetts had a total of 4 SNC violations in the universe, and
                                       Vermont had 15; in ea.ch case, we reviewed all SNC violations for those
                                       states. In some instances, the other states had fewer than three cases

                                       ‘To determine whether states are taking timely and appropriate action, EPA periodically requires the
                                       states to submit status reports on each SNC violation, To the maximum extent possible, we recorded
                                       the status of each case using the state follow-up reports that were submitted when the period allowed
                                       for timely enforcement action had elapsed-8 or 14 months after the applicable SNC lists were
                                       issued, depending on the type of violation. EPA’s timely and appropriate enforcement policy is dis-
                                       cussed in greater detail in chapter 3.



                                       Page 68             GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
.
    Appendix II
    Scope and Methodology for Review of State
    Enforcement Cases




    within a particular reporting category. Whenever this occurred, we
    selected additional cases from the remaining categories to bring the total
    cases reviewed within a state to 15, whenever possible. Our first choice
    in making these additions was to select cases for which the states
    reported enforcement actions, but when that option was not available,
    we added cases from the pending category. (In most states, pending
    cases represented the largest category.)

    We eliminated 11 cases from our review because, upon examining the
    case files, we learned that (1) the water system responsible for the viola-
    tion did not qualify as a community water system or (2) the case did not
    actually qualify as an SNC violation as of the end of fiscal year 1987.

    Whenever a state had more than three cases within an individual
    reporting category, we randomly selected our review cases. When a
    state had three or fewer cases within a particular reporting category, we
    reviewed all cases in that category.

    Some of the cases selected for our review involved water systems that
    had multiple SNCviolations. Whenever an SNCviolation was selected in
    one reporting category, we reviewed all other SNCviolations committed
    by the same community water system during the review period. If a sub-
    sequent random case selection involved another SNCviolation committed
    by a previously selected water system, a new selection was made. In
    other words, once a water system was selected, it could not be selected
    again. In total, we reviewed 95 SNCviolations involving 75 community
    water systems. Sixty-one of these systems had a single SNCviolation dur-
    ing the sample period, and 14 systems had multiple violations. Of these
    14 systems, 11 had two violations, 1 had three violations, 1 had four
    violations, and 1 had five violations.

    For each of the selected water systems, we conducted a detailed file
    review and interviews with state program managers. As necessary, we
    also discussed the cases with EPA regional officials. The results of our
    case reviews and our analysis of state enforcement performance are
    presented in chapter 3.




    Page 69         GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
                                                                                                                      II
Appendix III                                  /
Summary
  .       of EPA’s Efforts to IssueNew *’’ .’ ’
Drlnkln
      ’ g Water RegulationsRequiredby the
1986 Amendmentsto the SafeDrinking
Wakr Act
               (As of December 31, 1989)
               Requirement                        Statutory deadline            statur of EPA’8 efforts
               1. Set maximum contaminant         6/19/87 for 9 contaminants    4/2/86-final  regulation
                  levels or treatment                                           issued for one inoraanic
                  techniques and                                                chemical (fluoride)? Final
                  monitoring/ reporting                                         regulation became effective
                  requirements for 83                                           1O/2/87.
                  contaminants
                                                                                 7/8/87-final    regulations
                                                                                 issued for eight volatile
                                                                                organic chemicals (VOCs).
                                                                                 Final regulations became
                                                                                effective 1/g/89.
                                                  6/19/88 for 40 contaminants   8/18/88-proposed
                                                                                 regulations issued for two
                                                                                 inorganic contaminants
                                                                                (IOCs): lead and copper. Final
                                                                                 regulations scheduled for
                                                                                promuloation in fall of 1990.
                                                                                5/22/89-proposed
                                                                                regulations issued for 36
                                                                                contaminants: 30 synthetic
                                                                                organic chemicals (SOCs)
                                                                                and 8 IOCs. Final regulations
                                                                                scheduled for promulgation
                                                                                sometime in 1990.
                                                  6/19/89 for 34 contaminants   6/29/89-final     regulations
                                                                                issued for total coliforms
                                                                                contaminants. Final
                                                                                regulations will become
                                                                                effective 12/31/90.
                                                                                6/29/89-final     regulations
                                                                                issued for remaining five
                                                                                microbiological contaminants.
                                                                                Final regulations to become
                                                                                effective 12/31/90.
                                                                                EPA plans to issue proposed
                                                                                regulations for the remaining
                                                                                28 of the 83 contaminants by               b
                                                                                September 1990.
               2. Issue filtration criteria for   12/19/87                      6/29/89-final     filtration rule
                  surface water systems                                         issued. Final rule to become
                                                                                effective 12/31/90.
               3. Issue first regulations for     12/19/87                      7/8/87-final     monitoring
                  monitoring unregulated                                        requirements issued for 51
                  contaminants                                                  unreaulated contaminants.
                                                                                5/22/89-proposed
                                                                                monitoring requirements
                                                                                issued for 100 additional
                                                                                unregulated contaminants.
               4. Publish first Drinking Water    l/1/88 and every 3 years      l/22/88-first     priority list
                  Priority List                   thereafter                    oublished.
                                                                                                        (continued)




               Page 70             GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
     .



**       !
             Appendix III
             Summaw of EPA’s Efforts to Issue New
             Drhldng Water Regulations Required by the
             1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking
             Water Act




             Requirement
             -~--                   --...- .-
                                                Statutory deadline              Status of EPA’s efforts
             5. Develop lead/copper             6/l 6188                        8/l B/88-proposed
                corrosion control treatment                                     regulations issued for
                regulation                                                      treatment of lead/copper
                                                                                corrosion control. Final
                                                                                reoulations scheduled for
                                                                                prijmulgation in fall of 1990.
             6. Issue disinfection              6/l 9189                        6/29/89-final    disinfection
                treatment regulations,                                          regulations issued for surface
                including criteria for                                          water systems. Final
                granting variances, for all                                     regulations become effective
                public water systems                                            12/31/90. EPA plans to issue
                                                                                proposed regulations for
                                                                                disinfection treatment of
                                                                                groundwater systems and
                                                                                disinfection by-products
                                                                                sometime in 1991. Final
                                                                                regulations scheduled for
                                                                                promulgation in 1992.
             i. Promulgate regulations for      l/1/91 and every 3 years        Office of Drinkina Water staff
                at least 25 contaminants        thereafter                      plan to issue pr;posed
                on the Drinking Water                                           regulations for these
                Prioritv List                                                   contaminants in earlv 1990
             CIFluorlde was 1 of 26 contaminants regulated before enactment of the 1986 amendments. EPA issued
             revised fluoride regulations in 1986 to comply with the new drinking water requirements.




             Page 71            GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program
Appendix IV

Major Contributors to This Report


                                Peter F. Guerrero, Associate Director, (202) 252-0600
Resources,                      Steven L. Elstein, Assistant Director
Community, and                  Wanda T. Hawkins, Evaluator
                                Judy K. Pagano, Operations Research Analyst
Economic
Development Division,
Washington, DC.
                                Ellen M. Cracker, Evaluator-in-Charge
Boston      Regiona1   Office   Toy Har Chin, Evaluator
                                Tracey G. Westbrook, Evaluator
                                Kathy R. Alexander, Evaluator




(0894337)                       Page 72       GAO/RCED-90-127 Noncompliance Undermines EPA Drinking Water Program




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