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    Subject Term: "Potable water"

    13 publications with a total of 39 open recommendations including 3 priority recommendations
    Director: Lepore, Brian J
    Phone: (202) 512-4523

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment, in consultation with the Secretaries of the military departments, should identify and implement any necessary changes to DOD's environmental compliance policy to clarify DOD's reporting requirements for violations of health-based drinking water regulations. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions DOD has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should identify and implement actions to increase understanding at Army installations and commands about DOD's reporting requirements for violations of health-based drinking water regulations. These actions may include improved communication to or additional training for personnel. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions DOD has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should identify and implement actions to increase understanding at Navy installations and commands about DOD's reporting requirements for violations of health-based drinking water regulations. These actions may include improved communication to or additional training for personnel. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions DOD has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should identify and implement actions to increase understanding at Air Force installations and commands about DOD's reporting requirements for violations of health-based drinking water regulations. These actions may include improved communication to or additional training for personnel. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions DOD has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment, in consultation with the Secretaries of the military departments, should (a) review reported compliance data to identify the reasons for any differences in the number of violations of health-based drinking water regulations between DOD's two types of public water systems and (b) identify and implement any actions needed to address the causes of any differences in the number of violations between DOD's two types of public water systems. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions DOD has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Assistant Administrator for Water of EPA's Office of Water should require states to report available information about lead pipes to EPA's Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS)/Fed (or a future redesign such as SDWIS Prime) database, in its upcoming revision of the LCR. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what action the agency has taken, we will update.
    Recommendation: The Assistant Administrator for Water of EPA's Office of Water should require states to report all 90th percentile sample results for small water systems to EPA's SDWIS/Fed (or a future redesign such as SDWIS Prime) database, in its upcoming revision of the LCR. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what action the agency has taken, we will update.
    Recommendation: The Assistant Administrator for Water of EPA's Office of Water and the Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance should develop a statistical analysis that incorporates multiple factors--including those currently in SDWIS/Fed and others such as the presence of lead pipes and the use of corrosion control--to identify water systems that might pose a higher likelihood for violating the LCR once complete violations data are obtained, such as through SDWIS Prime. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what action the agency has taken, we will update.
    Director: Brian Lepore
    Phone: (202) 512-4523

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the information that DOD, military service officials, and installation-level utility system owners and maintainers need to make maintenance or other investment decisions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to take steps to implement existing guidance so that disruption information is consistently available at the installation level.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve the information that DOD, military service officials, and installation-level utility system owners and maintainers need to make maintenance or other investment decisions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to issue guidance to the installations to require the collection and retention of disruption.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve the information that DOD, military service officials, and installation-level utility system owners and maintainers need to make maintenance or other investment decisions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commandant of the Marine Corps to issue guidance to the installations to require the collection and retention of disruption information.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To provide DOD with more consistent information about the condition of DOD-owned utility systems as DOD continues to develop the SMS module for utility systems, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment, in coordination with the military services, to take actions to govern the consistent use of condition standards of utility systems to be assessed using the SMS utilities module, and if applicable, for other facilities assessed using other SMS modules.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: J. Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The EPA Administrator should direct the Office of Grants and Debarment (OGD) and program and regional offices, as appropriate, as part of EPA's ongoing streamlining initiatives and the development of a grantee portal, to incorporate expanded search capability features, such as keyword searches, into its proposed web-based portal for collecting and accessing performance reports to improve their accessibility.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In correspondence to GAO, EPA reiterated its agreement with this recommendation. EPA also stated that its vision for grants management includes having grant recipients submit performance reports and other information to the agency through a web-based portal. The portal would incorporate capabilities such as key word searches to allow for easier access to performance report information. However, the portal is a long-term initiative, subject to the agency's budget process, and dependent on the completion of the Next Generation Grants System, which EPA expects to fully deploy in fiscal year 2018. During fiscal year 2017, EPA officials stated that the agency has not started any work for the centralized grantee portal project, which is subject to available funds.
    Recommendation: The EPA Administrator should direct OGD and program and regional offices, as appropriate, as part of EPA's ongoing streamlining initiatives and the development of a grantee portal, to identify grant programs where existing program-specific data reporting can meet EPA's performance reporting requirements for grants management purposes to reduce duplicative reporting by grantees.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In correspondence to GAO, EPA reiterated its general agreement with this recommendation and stated it will work with recipient partners to identify where duplicative reporting can be reduced. However, EPA also noted that program-specific data cannot be relied upon to meet all grants management requirements, and performance reports often contain other information that allows project officers to monitor a recipient's progress. Further, EPA will need to consider the feasibility of expanding project officer access to certain program databases to enhance grant performance monitoring. During fiscal year 2017, EPA officials said that the agency is on track to complete the process for identifying where duplicative reporting can be reduced.
    Recommendation: The EPA Administrator should direct OGD and program and regional offices, as appropriate, as part of EPA's ongoing streamlining initiatives and the development of a grantee portal, once EPA's new performance system is in place, to ensure that the Office of Water adopts software tools, as appropriate, to electronically transfer relevant data on program results from program-specific databases to EPA's national performance system.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In correspondence to GAO, EPA reiterated its general agreement with this recommendation and stated that it will apply it, where appropriate and cost effective, to program-specific databases, not only the Office of Water databases. EPA noted that not all data from program-specific databases may be appropriate for direct electronic transfer to the national performance system; some individual grant data may need to be analyzed before being rolled up into national data. Additionally, implementation of this recommendation will depend upon the agency's program offices modifying their databases to interface with the new performance system. Further, implementation of this recommendation is dependent upon completion of EPA's new performance system, currently under development. During fiscal year 2017, EPA officials said that continued work on this effort was subject to the availability of funds.
    Recommendation: The EPA Administrator should direct OGD and program and regional offices, as appropriate, as part of EPA's ongoing streamlining initiatives and the development of a grantee portal, to clarify the factors project officers should consider when determining whether performance reports are consistent with EPA's environmental results directive.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In correspondence to GAO, EPA reiterated its agreement with this recommendation and stated that it will make conforming changes to the implementation guidance for the Environmental Results Order (directive). During fiscal year 2017, EPA officials said that they agency is on track to make the necessary changes.
    Recommendation: The EPA Administrator should direct OGD and program and regional offices, as appropriate, as part of EPA's ongoing streamlining initiatives and the development of a grantee portal, to expand aspects of EPA's policy for certain categorical grants, specifically, the call for an explicit reference to the planned results in grantees' work plans and their projected time frames for completion, to all grants.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In correspondence to GAO, EPA reiterated its agreement with this recommendation and stated that it will make conforming changes to existing policy. During fiscal year 2017, EPA officials said that this effort will be completed in fiscal year 2018.
    Recommendation: The EPA Administrator should direct OGD and program and regional offices, as appropriate, as part of EPA's ongoing streamlining initiatives and the development of a grantee portal, to incorporate built-in data quality controls for performance reports into the planned web-based portal based on EPA's environmental results directive.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In correspondence to GAO, EPA reiterated its general agreement with this recommendation. However, EPA emphasized that identifying and deploying appropriate data quality controls is a long-term effort subject to budgetary considerations, completion of the Next Generation Grants System, and extensive collaboration with internal and external stakeholders. Specifically, the report's vision for built-in data quality controls involves the use of electronic templates and reduced reliance on manual data entry--which would require standardized work plan and performance report formats subject to clearance by the Office of Management and Budget. Further, EPA noted that both grant recipients and EPA program offices generally have not supported standardizing the format of work plan and progress reports in the past. Accordingly, as a first step, EPA will seek feedback from the recipient and program office community. During fiscal year 2017, EPA officials said that it plans to complete the first phase of its work within the year.
    Director: Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure protection of underground drinking water from the injection of wastewater associated with domestic oil and gas production, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should require and collect well-specific data on inspections from state and EPA-managed programs, including when the wells were inspected, the types of inspections conducted, and the results of the inspections in order to track progress toward state and EPA-managed annual inspection goals.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA said that it is working toward establishing a complete, regularly updated data set. It will work toward expanding the agency's access to well-specific data and will expand the data it has in its national UIC database. And, the agency said that it will continue to work with DOE and the Groundwater Protection Council to develop a national oil and gas gateway for well-specific data. Until such data are made available, we will leave this recommendation as open.
    Recommendation: To help ensure protection of underground drinking water from the injection of wastewater associated with domestic oil and gas production, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should complete the aquifer exemption database and establish a way to update it to provide EPA headquarters and regions with sufficient information on aquifer exemptions to oversee state and EPA-managed programs.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In December 2016, EPA published a map of aquifer exemptions online, with the exception of region 9 data. The public dataset shows the data in two dimensions and includes information such as depth of injection, surrounding geology and injectate characteristics. EPA plans to update the database annually. We will keep this recommendation open until EPA completes work on region 9.
    Recommendation: To help ensure protection of underground drinking water from the injection of wastewater associated with domestic oil and gas production, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should clarify guidance on what data should be reported on the 7520-4 form to help ensure that the data collected are complete and consistent across state and EPA-managed programs and to provide the information EPA needs to assess whether it must take enforcement actions.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA said that it is working toward establishing a complete, regularly updated data set. It will work toward expanding the agency's access to well-specific data and will expand the data it has in its national UIC database. And, the agency said that it will continue to work with DOE and the Groundwater Protection Council to develop a national oil and gas gateway for well-specific data. Until such data are made available, we will leave this recommendation open.
    Recommendation: To help ensure protection of underground drinking water from the injection of wastewater associated with domestic oil and gas production, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should conduct a workforce analysis to identify the human capital and other resources EPA needs to carry out its oversight of state and EPA-managed programs.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA disagreed and said that the best approach is to expand its evaluation of agency oversight to include elements of inspection and enforcement. Once the evaluation is complete, EPA will consider its oversight of state programs. We will keep this recommendation open until EPA completes its review and determines what it will do with its oversight.
    Director: J. Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: As EPA and USDA continue to consider ways to track and promote water utilities' implementation of asset management, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water and Office of Wastewater Management to continue to include questions on water utilities' use of asset management in the clean water needs assessment and consider including questions about water utilities' use of asset management in future drinking water infrastructure needs assessment surveys.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of March 2017, EPA has convened a workgroup of 40 people representing states, technical advisers, EPA, and USDA. It will develop new asset management outreach tools directed towards local decision makers. The group will meet quarterly and plans to issue tools and resources by fall 2017.
    Recommendation: As EPA and USDA continue to consider ways to track and promote water utilities' implementation of asset management, the Administrator of EPA, and the Secretary of USDA, through the Rural Development Agency, should consider compiling into one document the existing cases and examples of the benefits and costs of asset management and widely share this information with water utilities.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, EPA has convened a workgroup of 40 people representing states, technical advisers, EPA, and USDA. It will develop new asset management outreach tools directed towards local decision makers. The group will meet quarterly and plans to issue tools and resources by fall 2017.
    Recommendation: As EPA and USDA continue to consider ways to track and promote water utilities' implementation of asset management, the Administrator of EPA, and the Secretary of USDA, through the Rural Development Agency, should consider compiling into one document the existing cases and examples of the benefits and costs of asset management and widely share this information with water utilities.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, EPA had convened a workgroup of 40 people representing states, technical advisers, EPA, and USDA. It will develop new asset management outreach tools directed towards local decision makers. The group will meet quarterly and plans to issue a best practices document by April 2017 and a webinar by May 2017.
    Director: J. Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve EPA's review and oversight of the SRF program, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Water to update the financial indicators guidance to include one or more of EPA's financial measures for identifying the growth of states' SRF funds.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of April 2017, EPA is finalizing changes to its financial indicators to help identify the growth of states' SRF funds, according to EPA officials. EPA officials told us it had established a joint EPA/state workgroup that proposed draft financial indicators for the State Revolving Funds (SRF). These draft indicators are intended to address financial sustainability and the extent to which funds are being used efficiently. EPA plans to issue a memorandum to finalize these updated indicators in the summer of 2017. GAO will review EPA's memorandum when it is issued to determine if the recommendation can be closed.
    Recommendation: To improve EPA's review and oversight of the SRF program, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Water to use information on SRF funds' past performance to develop projections of SRF programs by forecasting future lending capacity during regional office reviews of states' SRF programs using factors such as future interest earnings and inflation rates.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, EPA is finalizing its tools and guidance to regional offices to forecast states' future lending capacity, according to EPA officials. EPA officials told us that it had enhanced its State Revolving Fund (SRF) Financial Planning Model to align future loan projections with target cash balances. EPA's Office of Water will work with EPA regional offices to use the updated SRF Financial Planning Model for SRF forecasts that will support annual regional reviews of state SRF programs. EPA will update its guidance to EPA regional offices to use these forecasts in their reviews of the state SRF programs beginning in 2017 or early 2018. GAO will review EPA's guidance when it is finalized to determine if this recommendation can be closed.
    Director: Brian J. Lepore
    Phone: (202) 512-4523

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to improve the comprehensiveness and accuracy of certain data submitted by the military services to OSD and reported in the Energy Reports--such as potentially underreported data on mitigation costs and inaccurate data on both disruptions' duration and cost--the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of Army, Navy, and Air Force, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment to work together to improve the effectiveness of data validation steps in DOD's process for collecting and reporting utilities disruption data. For example, the military services and OSD could determine whether more time in the 5-month process should be devoted to data validation and whether equal priority should be given to validating all types of data included in the Energy Reports.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation to improve the effectiveness of data validation steps in DOD's process for collecting and reporting utilities disruption data. In a memo from April 2016, DOD stated that it determined that focusing on the minimization of data input errors at the installation level was the most effective strategy to improve the effectiveness of data validation. Further, resolving initial input errors was determined to be the least resource and cost intensive approach to improve data quality. Therefore, DOD updated its data collection template for utility disruptions to include a dropdown menu so that users can use it to select the category of utility service that was disrupted. In addition, DOD stated that it expects to continue to work with the services and Defense Agencies in the next reporting cycle for the Annual Energy Management Report to improve the effectiveness of data validation steps.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that EPA's oversight of the class II program is effective at protecting drinking water sources from the underground injection of large amounts of wastewater that will be produced with increasing domestic oil and gas production, and to support nationwide reporting goals until the national UIC database is complete, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should (1) improve the 7520 data for reporting purposes, as well as to help with quality assurance for the national UIC database, by developing and implementing a protocol for states and regions to enter data consistently and for regions to check 7520 data for consistency and completeness to ensure that data collected from state and EPA-managed class II programs are complete and comparable for purposes of reporting at a national level, and (2) in the interim, develop a method to use the 7520 database to report UIC data, including data on class II wells, until the national UIC database is fully populated with state data.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA said that its 7520 database is current as of 2014 and the quality assurance process has been completed. It is developing a method to use the database to report aggregated national data on the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program.
    Recommendation: To ensure that EPA's oversight of the class II program is effective at protecting drinking water sources from the underground injection of large amounts of wastewater that will be produced with increasing domestic oil and gas production, and to ensure that EPA maintains enforcement authority of state program requirements, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should (1) conduct a rulemaking to incorporate state program requirements, and changes to state program requirements, into federal regulations, and (2) at the same time, evaluate and consider alternative processes to more efficiently incorporate future changes to state program requirements into federal regulations without a rulemaking.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: EPA agrees with GAO's analysis that state program requirements and changes should be approved and codified in federal regulations. However, EPA does not agree with GAO's recommendation to conduct one comprehensive rulemaking to achieve this. In November 2016, EPA officials said they will continue to explore alternative methods for maintaining federal enforceability under the current statutory provisions; it plans to finish its efforts in January 2017. GAO will continue to monitor this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To ensure that EPA's oversight of the class II program is effective at protecting drinking water sources from the underground injection of large amounts of wastewater that will be produced with increasing domestic oil and gas production, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should evaluate and revise, as needed, UIC program guidance on effective oversight to identify essential activities that EPA headquarters and regions need to conduct to effectively oversee state and EPA managed programs.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA stated that it has developed a national framework for oversight of the UIC program and to transfer knowledge to new staff. EPA said that it will continue to evaluate whether to update its guidance. We are continuing to monitor EPA's progress on this recommendation.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To take advantage of opportunities to collect UCMR data on additional unregulated contaminants, Congress should consider amending SDWA to give EPA the flexibility to select more than 30 contaminants for monitoring under the UCMR program if high-priority contaminants, such as those on the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) or contaminants of emerging concern, can be included at minimal cost, with minimal additional burden on public water systems, and while using analytical methods that EPA is already employing.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, Congress has not taken action to address this matter; we will continue to monitor actions and provide updated information when it becomes available.
    Recommendation: To optimize the ability of the UCMR data to support regulatory determinations, Congress should consider adjusting the statutory time frames for the UCMR and regulatory determinations cycles so that EPA can use the UCMR data to support regulatory determinations in the same cycle.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, Congress has not taken action to address this matter; we will continue to monitor actions and provide updated information when it becomes available.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: (202)512-9338

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve EPA's ability to oversee the states' implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act and provide Congress and the public with more complete and accurate information on compliance, the Administrator of EPA should resume data verification audits to routinely evaluate the quality of selected drinking water data on health-based and monitoring violations that the states provide to EPA. These audits should also evaluate the quality of data on the enforcement actions that states and other primacy agencies have taken to correct violations.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of May 2017, EPA reported that it had not resumed its data verification audits due to budgetary constraints, but was continuing on-site file reviews to support efficient and effective state programs. EPA completed 5 file reviews in 2015, 7 in 2016, and was planning to complete 10 in 2017. According to EPA, budgetary constraints may affect its ability to reach this goal. According to the agency, EPA continues to focus on developing its Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) Prime database, which it claims will reduce state burden, support effective management and prioritization of resources, and will enhance data quality and support the possibility of building an electronic data verification protocol. EPA said it plans to have the system operational in 2018. In addition, EPA said that it continues to provide training sessions as well as identify best practices that file reviewers can use to enhance file review implementation. For 2017-2018, EPA plans to continue quarterly national training events. A July 2017 report by EPA's Office of the Inspector General concluded that limitations to EPA's oversight tools impede the agency's ability to conduct consistent oversight of the national drinking water program and reduce the reliability of its monitoring and reporting data. The Inspector General did not make any recommendations because it concluded the agency is taking steps to address the shortcomings. For example, according to the Inspector General's report, EPA released the Compliance Monitoring Data Portal in September 2016. EPA water officials said the portal will enable public water systems and laboratories to report drinking water data electronically to primacy agencies. Utah became the first state to use the portal in March 2017 and EPA staff anticipate that five additional states will begin using the portal by the end of 2017. EPA anticipates this system will lead to fewer reporting errors, improved data quality, and reduced time needed to report state data to EPA.
    Recommendation: To improve EPA's ability to oversee the states' implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act and provide Congress and the public with more complete and accurate information on compliance, the Administrator of EPA should work with the states to establish a goal, or goals, for the completeness and accuracy of data on monitoring violations. In setting these goals, EPA may want to consider whether certain types of monitoring violations merit specific targets. For example, the agency may decide that a goal for the states to completely and accurately report when required monitoring was not done should differ from a goal for reporting when monitoring was done but not reported on time.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, EPA has not worked with states to establish a national goal for the quality of monitoring violations. EPA stated that, without the ability to conduct on-site data verifications using a statistically-based sample size, it is unable to derive a goal that would capture both completeness of state reporting to EPA and whether the states correctly assigned a violation for missed monitoring. EPA said that it intends to work with states to evaluate the establishment of a monitoring data quality goal once the new Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) NextGen data system has been developed and electronic data verification functions are incorporated into the system. In April 2015, EPA indicated that the agency intends to separate monitoring violations from reporting violations in the new SDWIS Primacy Agency (Prime) data system. According to EPA, this will enable the primacy agencies and EPA to better understand the nature of system violations and with the violations delineated in this manner, EPA will be able to consider developing goals for monitoring and reporting violations. As of May 2017, EPA is scheduled to have SDWIS Prime available for testing in September 2017 and available for state users at the end of March 2018. EPA will consider GAO's recommendation once SDWIS Prime is fully operational and it is able to better establish such a goal.
    Recommendation: To improve EPA's ability to oversee the states' implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act and provide Congress and the public with more complete and accurate information on compliance, the Administrator of EPA should consider whether EPA's performance measures for community water systems could be constructed to more clearly communicate the aggregate public health risk posed by these systems' noncompliance with SDWA and progress in having those systems return to compliance in a timely manner.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EPA told GAO that it continues to use a variety of tools and resources to identify strategies that will enhance how the agency conveys to the public information on drinking water quality and potential health risks associated with exposure to contaminants. With regard to GAO's recommendation, EPA told us it had previously collaborated with the EPA Regional managers to identify language that would enhance the communication of aggregate public health risk to consumers in regards to community water system measures. EPA developed the "person month" measure because it describes the percentage of people served by community water system that receive drinking water that meets all health-based drinking water standards, accounting for the duration of violations that occurred. EPA piloted this measure in Fiscal Year 2007 as an indicator measure. In Fiscal Year 2008, the measure was elevated to a strategic plan measure with established targets. After receiving positive response regarding this measure, in Fiscal Year 2015, the agency developed a "person month" measure for tribal community water systems. According to the agency, EPA will continue to take comments on existing and future measures during its 5 year strategic plan reviews.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: (202)512-9338

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase EPA's consistency, transparency, and clarity in implementing the Safe Drinking Water Act in a way that better assures the public of safe drinking water, and to systematically implement the statutory requirement to consider for regulation the contaminants that present the greatest public health concern, the EPA Administrator should require that the Office of Water to develop a coordinated process for obtaining both the occurrence and health effects data that may be needed for the agency to make informed regulatory determinations on these priority contaminants.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2017, while EPA cited the January 2016 document, "EPA's Protocol for the Regulatory Determinations 3," that includes clearer, more explicit description of the occurrence data EPA uses and the health assessment sources, it does not address the recommendation's intent that EPA develop a coordinated process for obtaining both the occurrence and health effects data that may be needed for the agency to make informed regulatory determinations on priority contaminants. Since most, if not all of the sources cited are data that EPA was using at the time the report was issued, GAO is keeping this recommendation open. As GAO reported, the approach EPA currently uses does not provide the agency with all of the data it needs in a timely manner to support determinations for some priority contaminants.
    Recommendation: In light of EPA's decisions to issue health advisories in conjunction with determinations to not regulate certain contaminants that have been detected in some public water systems at levels of public health concern, the EPA Administrator should (1) determine whether the Office of Water's use of health advisories provides sufficient information on these unregulated contaminants to support timely and effective actions by states, localities, public water systems, and the public to ensure the safety of public drinking water, and (2) if not, direct the Office of Water to develop a plan to more effectively communicate such information to these entities.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, EPA indicated that its Drinking Water Standards and Health Advisories tables provide a summary of previously published concentrations of drinking water contaminants that are protective of public health, and that the agency periodically updates these tables to summarize health advisories and regulations published to date. Since the table was last updated in 2012, and work is underway to revise it and make the information more accessible, GAO will monitor EPA's progress before closing this recommendation.
    Director: Stephenson, John B
    Phone: (202)512-6225

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should take a number of steps to further protect the American public from elevated lead levels in drinking water. Specifically, to improve EPA's ability to oversee implementation of the lead rule and assess compliance and enforcement activities, EPA should ensure that data on water systems' test results, corrective action milestones, and violations are current, accurate, and complete.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2017, EPA reported to GAO that the agency had been working with states through face-to-face trainings and webinars on the reporting of milestone data. GAO will continue to monitor these efforts and reevaluate whether water systems' test results, corrective action milestones and violations are current, accurate and complete subsequent to the completion of the Compliance Monitoring Data Portal and the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) Prime, described briefly below. However, until these new tools are complete, the status of this recommendation remains open. According to EPA, SDWIS Prime will be available for testing in September 2017 and for state use at the end of March 2018. In an earlier update to GAO in June 2016, EPA highlighted several of its efforts to improve data quality, noting that it had given greater scrutiny to such improvements due to recent concerns about elevated lead in drinking water. For example, its SDWIS regional coordinators review all SDWIS data submissions for accuracy and timeliness before approving submittals to the agency. In addition, EPA provides the Regions and the States with a data quality matrix report that gives metrics on the accuracy and timeliness of the last submission, after each quarterly submission. The agency has also focused on promoting electronic reporting of drinking water data through development of the Compliance Monitoring Data Portal, and is developing SDWIS Prime to improve state program efficiency, automate candidate violation notifications, increase data submission quality, and promote reporting of compliance monitoring data.