Groundwater Standards:

States Need More Information From EPA

PEMD-88-6: Published: Mar 16, 1988. Publicly Released: Mar 16, 1988.


Michael J. Wargo
(202) 275-3092


Office of Public Affairs
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In response to a congressional request, GAO described: (1) information in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents about groundwater contaminants that is available to states for setting groundwater standards; and (2) existing drinking water standards.

GAO found that: (1) 41 of the 57 states and territories set their own numerical or narrative standards for groundwater contaminants, since there were no federal standards; (2) many states believed that a lack of information constrained their standard-setting efforts; (3) EPA is revising 20 of the 22 standards it issued before 1987 for individual contaminants and is reviewing 63 other contaminants for possible regulation; and (4) although there were 247 EPA documents that dealt fairly well with 83 contaminants, there was a substantial gap between what was available and what states needed to develop standards. GAO believes that, although Congress did not give EPA general authority to set groundwater standards, providing the information states need to establish their own standards would be consistent with current EPA goals and efforts.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should establish a criteria document program for groundwater contaminants. The groundwater contaminants addressed should be those that pose the greatest risks.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA is now providing specific information on groundwater contaminants in areas not previously covered.

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