Flexibility in the Safe Drinking Water Act

RCED-96-12R: Published: Nov 21, 1995. Publicly Released: Dec 8, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states, and public water systems have been able to use the flexibility contained in the Safe Drinking Water Act to reduce compliance costs. GAO noted that: (1) the act and EPA regulations provide the flexibility necessary for state water systems to reduce their compliance costs; (2) although states offer various options, such as monitoring waivers to reduce compliance costs, the systems' use of these options vary; (3) barriers to exercising compliance flexibility include inadequate resources and the lack of information needed to reduce monitoring costs; (4) many states favor reducing the frequency of certain testing and giving states more authority to establish their own monitoring requirements to reduce monitoring costs; (5) water industry representatives believe that states are not aggressive enough in exercising the available flexibility and support reduced monitoring for some contaminants; and (6) EPA has streamlined the requirements for monitoring chemicals and revised state guidance on enforcing national priorities so states and water systems can focus on their most significant public health risks.

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