Last Thursday EPA’s Office Enforcement & Compliance Assurance issued a 7-page memo outlining their enforcement priorities and guidance to state agencies as every organization in the U.S. struggles to protect workers and customers, adapt to support a remote workforce, combat misinformation about water quality and prepare for future impacts.
Though some critics argue the policy gives industries an “open license to pollute”, OECA Director Susan Parker Bodine acknowledged that access to safe drinking water is critical in the fight against COVID. In light of this, Bodine said the EPA has “heightened expectations for public water systems”, meaning systems must uphold requirements outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act.
To guide state drinking water agencies in setting their enforcement priorities in the face of expected staffing shortages and laboratory capacity problems, EPA recommended states focus on the prevention of acute risks — specifically monitoring for:
EPA also strongly encouraged water systems to be in contact with their state regulators to address delivery and compliance impacts related to COVID. State agencies across the nation are providing guidance to utilities via memos or on government websites and some are even helping water utilities with public messaging.
Water utility staff are the unsung heroes helping the citizens, medical facilities and society as a whole in the fight against COVID. Right now the two most important things people can do is stay at home (if able) and wash their hands–both are impossible without water and wastewater services. We agree with EPA. The country cannot afford to let water standards slip right now.