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Highlights

The National Interim Primary Drinking Water Regulations established drinking water quality standards and water testing requirements to ensure the quality of drinking water provided by the nation's public water systems. However, compliance with these regulations by the nation's public water systems seems minimal at best. GAO reviewed the Safe Drinking Water Program to determine how effectively the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and primacy states, those granted authority by the EPA Administrator to operate the program, have implemented the provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Environmental Protection Agency 1. The Administrator, EPA, should direct the Office of Drinking Water to develop and implement specific guidelines that the states can use when developing the enforcement strategy section of their state plans. The guidelines should include a model for ranking water systems for enforcement action, including, as a minimum, such factors as: (1) the type of violation, exceeding water quality standard or the failure to test; (2) the degree of violation, the extent to which the drinking water quality standard is exceeded or the number of months the water supplier failed to test; and (3) the size of population affected by the violation. The guidelines should also identify the various types of enforcement actions available. Finally, the guidelines should clearly define the terms "serious violators" and "less serious violators." The guidelines will help states to more effectively use their limited resources and provide for consistent application of enforcement actions.
Closed - Implemented
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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