What is the safe drinking water act?
On June 22, 1969, fire met water on the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, and fire won. For years, industries had dumped waste into the river, resulting in a toxic sludge on the water. While the exact cause of the river fire remains unknown, experts believe a passing train set off sparks that ignited the sludge. In an unbelievable sight, the river caught fire.
The Cuyahoga River fire was one of many American environmental disasters in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As people rallied to protect the environment, the U.S. Congress responded with the Clean Air Act (1970) and the Clean Water Act (1972). Then, in 1974, legislators passed a law that flows through millions of American households everyday: the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
The purpose of the SDWA is to ensure a clean and safe water supply for public consumption. Through this law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is given the authority to set national standards to protect “against both naturally-occurring and man-made contaminants that may be found in drinking water.” These include toxins such as industrial chemicals, pesticides and animal waste. When the law was enacted, the EPA set limits for 89 potentially toxic chemicals, bacteria and viruses in the water.
Once the EPA set the national limits, public water officials at the state level were given the responsibility for maintaining the federal standards. For years after 1974, the EPA issued updates on new contaminants found in the public water supply. The state managers, however, pushed back because they could not keep up with all the new regulations. In 1996, the SDWA was amended, and in the years since then, “not a single new contaminant has been regulated under the law.”
Thankfully, despite the loosening of SDWA regulation, the United States continues to have some of the safest drinking water in the world. If you’re eager to know more about the water flowing through your kitchen tap, order a Consumer Confidence Report from your local officials.
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