Public Notification Requirements for Public Water Systems
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA), public drinking water systems are required to inform their customers of any violations of the state's drinking water standards. The purpose of public notification is to inform customers of any potential adverse health effects related to their drinking water, and what steps they can take to minimize the impact (40 CFR 141.32 and 141.35; IDAPA 58.01.08.150.02 and 04).
Public Notification Requirements
Effective May 6, 2002, amendments to the SDWA, known as the 2000 rule, prescribed specific public notification requirements based on the potential of a violation to cause serious effects. Violations are categorized in the following three-tier system:
Tier 1 notice is required for all violations or situations with significant potential to cause serious effects due to short-term exposure. Owners or operators must notify all persons served by the system within 24 hours. Notice is to be made by radio and television or by posting or hand-delivery, or other method approved by the primary agency. Posting must continue as long as the violation persists.
In addition, systems must initiate consultation with the primary agency (DEQ) as soon as practical but within 24 hours after learning of the violation or situation. Lastly, within 10 days, systems must provide the primary agency with a copy of the notice plus certification that all requirements have been met.
Violations or situations that require Tier 1 notice include the following:
- Maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) and some monitoring violations for fecal coliform/E.coli
- Nitrate, nitrite, total nitrate, and nitrite MCLs
- Chlorine dioxide maximum residual disinfectant level (MRDL) when one or more samples taken in the distribution system on the day after exceeding MRDL at entrance of distribution system, or when required samples are not taken in the distribution system
- Exceedance of turbidity limit where consultation does not occur within 24 hours or where primacy agency requires 24-hour notice
- Occurrence of a waterborne disease outbreak or other waterborne emergency
- Other violations or situations as determined by the state
Tier 2 notice is required for all other violations or situations with potential to cause serious effects. Owners or operators must notify all persons served by the system within 30 days. Community water systems must use mail or hand-delivery, and other reasonable methods, to notify customers, unless directed otherwise by the primary agency. Noncommunity water systems must use posting, hand-delivery, or mail, and other reasonable methods, unless the primary agency directs otherwise. The notice must be repeated every 3 months until the violation or situation is resolved. In addition, systems must consult with the primary agency within 24 hours if they exceed the maximum allowable turbidity level.
Violations or situations that require Tier 2 notice include the following:
- MCL, MRDL, treatment technique violations, except where Tier 1 is required
- Monitoring and testing procedure violations elevated by the primacy agency
- Failure to comply with any variance or exemption schedule violations in place
Tier 3 notice is required for all other violations or situations not included in Tiers 1 or 2. Owners or operators must notify all persons served by the system within 1 year. Community water systems must use mail or direct delivery, and other reasonable methods, to notify customers, unless directed otherwise by the primary agency. Noncommunity water systems must use posting, direct delivery, or mail, and other reasonable methods, unless primary agency directs otherwise. The notice must be repeated annually.
Violations or situations that require Tier 3 notice include the following:
- Monitoring violations, except where Tier 1 notice is required or the primacy agency determines that the violation requires a Tier 2 notice
- Failure to comply with an established testing procedure, except where Tier 1 notice is required or the primacy agency determined that the violation requires a Tier 2 notice
- Operation under variance granted under §1415 or exemption granted under §1416 of the Safe Drinking Water Act
- Availability of unregulated contaminant monitoring results
- Exceedance of the secondary maximum contaminant level for fluoride
Required Public Notice Contents
Notices must contain the following information:
- A description of the violation or situation; when the violation or situation occurred; potential adverse health effects; populations at risk; whether alternative water supplies should be used; actions consumers should take; system actions to correct the violation or situation; expected date of return to compliance; name, address, and telephone number for additional information; and standard language encouraging distribution to others.
- An explanation of the reason for a variance or exemption; the date it was
issued; a brief status report on steps to comply with terms and schedules; and a notice of any opportunity for public input.
- Revised mandatory health effects language using language for the CCR rule.
- Additional mandatory language for monitoring and testing procedure violations.
In all cases, systems that serve a large proportion of non-English speaking customers must provide information on the importance of the notice in the appropriate language.
Public Notification Certification Requirements
After providing notice to your consumers, within 10 days, send your primacy agency a copy of each type of notice you distribute (e.g., newspaper article, press release to TV/radio, and mail notices) and a certification that you have met all the public notification requirements. Send certifications for both initial and any repeat notices. When you certify, you are also stating that you will meet future requirements for notifying new billing units of the violation or situation.
Under the Safe Water Drinking Act, community and non-transient non-community public drinking water systems are required to provide public education to their customers concerning lead levels in drinking water whenever sample results indicate lead levels above the federally established Action Levels. Here are EPA’s guidelines for providing public education:
- Implementing the Lead Public Education Provision of the Lead and Copper Rule: A Guide for Community Water Systems
- Implementing the Lead Public Education Provision of the Lead and Copper Rule: A Guide for Non-Transient Non Community Water Systems