EPA Needs To Improve the Navajo Indian Safe Drinking Water Program

CED-80-124: Published: Sep 10, 1980. Publicly Released: Oct 9, 1980.

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GAO was asked to review the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) implementation of the drinking water program on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Water sampling and laboratory analysis practices used on the reservation were also reviewed.

Because there is no overall plan or supervision by EPA, confusion and misunderstandings have resulted over the roles and responsibilities of water suppliers and organizations in carrying out the drinking water program. Poor records and inconsistent or nonexistent identification systems make it difficult to inventory and locate water sources. Few water suppliers maintain records and make reports as required by EPA. Consequently, EPA has little assurance that required activities, such as periodic sampling and analysis, customer notification of violations, and corrective action on violations, are performed and drinking water standards are met. Reservation sampling procedures have not been standardized and actual procedures used are often inconsistent with those recommended by authoritative sources. In addition, some large variances were found in analyses between and within laboratories that analyzed GAO samples. GAO found levels of radionuclide contamination in some wells to be in excess of allowable EPA levels.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should direct region IX to: (1) develop a drinking water program plan for the Navajo Reservation which clearly identifies the roles and responsibilities of each organization involved in water supply activities, includes provisions for developing an accurate water supply inventory, and is developed in cooperation with Navajo Tribal Reservation officials; (2) develop a followup system for the Navajo Reservation to insure that the water suppliers comply with recordkeeping, sampling, reporting, consumer notification, and corrective action requirements; (3) develop and mandate the use of standardized field sampling procedures for the reservation, taking into consideration the unique reservation circumstances, such as long transportation times; and (4) establish minimum training standards for reservation water sampling technicians and support such standards with training programs, materials, and technical assistance.

    Agency Affected:

 

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