Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed state routine inspections of public water systems to determine: (1) whether sanitary surveys are comprehensive enough to determine if public water systems can provide good-quality drinking water; and (2) what the surveys revealed about the operations and condition of water systems nationwide.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Environmental Protection Agency||1. To improve the effectiveness of sanitary surveys, the Administrator, EPA, should work with states to establish minimum requirements governing the frequency of sanitary surveys, as well as the manner in which they should be conducted and documented. These requirements should be set in a manner that considers states' resource constraints, but reflects the survey elements essential to ensure that water systems are capable of delivering safe drinking water to consumers.|
|Environmental Protection Agency||2. To improve the effectiveness of sanitary surveys, the Administrator, EPA, should assist states in developing criteria to guide inspectors in interpreting the results of surveys and in identifying appropriate actions to be taken when specific types of deficiencies are detected.|
|Environmental Protection Agency||3. To improve the effectiveness of sanitary surveys, the Administrator, EPA, should augment the agency's efforts to provide formal sanitary survey training to states' inspectors.|
|Environmental Protection Agency||4. In order to improve the effectiveness of sanitary surveys in protecting drinking water quality, the Administrator, EPA, should help states to develop and implement procedures to ensure that deficiencies detected during sanitary surveys are corrected on a timely basis. This assistance could include identifying states with effective follow-up systems and helping other states set up similar systems.|
|Environmental Protection Agency||5. In order to improve the effectiveness of sanitary surveys in protecting drinking water quality, the Administrator, EPA, should ensure that, as part of their oversight responsibilities, EPA headquarters and regional staff monitor the effectiveness of states' follow-up.|