Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (06/25/1996)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Title I: Public Water Systems

Subtitle A: Promulgation of National Primary Drinking

Water Regulations

Subtitle B: State Primary Enforcement Responsibility

for Public Water Systems

Subtitle C: Notification and Enforcement

Subtitle D: Exemptions and Variances

Subtitle E: Lead Plumbing and Pipes

Subtitle F: Capacity Development

Title II: Amendments to Part C

Title III: General Provisions Regarding Safe Drinking Water

Act

Title IV: Miscellaneous

Title V: Additional Assistance for Water Infrastructure and

Watersheds

Title VI: Drinking Water Research Authorization

Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 - Title I: Public Water Systems - Subtitle A: Promulgation of National Primary Drinking Water Regulations - Amends the Safe Drinking Water Act (the Act) to: (1) repeal a provision requiring the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set new standards for 25 additional contaminants every three years; (2) require the Administrator to publish a list of contaminants that are not subject to proposed or promulgated national primary drinking water (NPDW) regulations, that are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems (systems), and that may require regulation; and (3) direct the Administrator, every five years, to determine whether to regulate not fewer than five contaminants on the list based on findings that such contaminants are known or are likely to occur in systems with a frequency and at a level of public health concern and that their regulation presents a meaningful opportunity for public health risk reduction.

Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) judicial review; (2) contaminant selection priorities; (3) promulgation of maximum contaminant level (MCL) goals and NPDW regulations; and (3) publication of health advisories.

(Sec. 102) Directs the Administrator to promulgate an information collection rule to obtain information that will facilitate further revisions to the NPDW regulation for disinfectants and disinfection byproducts, including microbial contaminants such as cryptosporidium.

(Sec. 103) Authorizes a State exercising primary enforcement responsibility for systems to establish treatment requirements as an alternative to filtration in the case of systems having uninhabited, undeveloped watersheds in consolidated ownership and having control over access to, and activities in, those watersheds, if the State determines (and the Administrator concurs) that the quality of the source water and the alternative treatment requirements established by the State ensure greater removal or inactivation efficiencies of pathogenic organisms for which NPDW regulations have been promulgated or that are of public health concern than would be achieved by the combination of filtration and chlorine disinfection.

(Sec. 104) Directs the Administrator, at the time an NPDW regulation is proposed, to publish a determination of whether the MCL benefits justify the costs.

Authorizes the Administrator to establish an MCL for a contaminant at a level other than the feasible level if the technology, treatment techniques, and other means used to determine the feasible level would result in an increase in the health risk from drinking water by increasing the concentration of other contaminants in drinking water, or by interfering with the efficacy of drinking water treatment techniques or processes used to comply with other NPDW regulations.

(Sec. 105) Modifies the Act to require the Administrator to promulgate NPDW regulations requiring disinfection as a treatment technique for all systems at any time in the period beginning three years after enactment of this Act until the date on which the Administrator promulgates a Stage II rulemaking for disinfectants and disinfectant byproducts.

(Sec. 106) Makes NPDW regulations effective three years after promulgation, with exceptions.

(Sec. 107) Directs the Administrator to: (1) use the best available science in regulatory decisionmaking; (2) ensure that the presentation of information on public health effects is comprehensive, informative, and understandable; and (3) prepare a health risk reduction and cost analysis for new regulations.

(Sec. 108) Requires the Administrator to: (1) withdraw any existing proposed radon regulation and, within three years, propose and promulgate an NPDW regulation for radon under this Act's standard- setting procedures, taking into account the costs and benefits of control programs for radon from other sources; (2) promulgate an NPDW regulation for arsenic by January 1, 2000; (3) jointly conduct a study with the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP Director) to establish a reliable dose-response relationship for potential adverse human health effects from sulfate exposure in drinking water. Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 109) Authorizes the Administrator to promulgate an interim NPDW regulation for a contaminant without making a determination as to whether the benefits justify the costs and without performing a health risk reduction and cost analysis to address an urgent public health threat.

(Sec. 110) Directs the Administrator: (1) to promulgate a regulation to govern the recycling of filter backwash water within the treatment process of a system; and (2) when issuing new regulations, to identify affordable treatment technologies for small public water systems serving populations of 3,300 to 10,000, populations of 500 to 3,300, and populations of 25 to 500.

Subtitle B: State Primary Enforcement Responsibility for Public Water Systems - Modifies the Act to grant a State primary enforcement responsibility for systems during any period for which the Administrator determines that such State, not later than two years after NPDW regulations are promulgated, has adopted drinking water regulations which are no less stringent than the NPDW regulations, with two-year extensions permitted under specified circumstances.

Specifies that a State with primary enforcement authority with respect to each existing NPDW regulation shall be considered to have primary enforcement authority over each new or revised NPDW regulation during a specified period.

Subtitle C: Notification and Enforcement - Modifies the Act to require each system owner or operator to give notice to its customers of the concentration level of any unregulated contaminant for which the Administrator has required public notice.

Authorizes States to establish alternative notification requirements. .

Sets forth reporting requirements for the State and the Administrator. Directs the Administrator to issue regulations to require each community water system to mail to each customer of the system at least annually a report on the level of contaminants in the drinking water purveyed by that system ("consumer confidence report"), which shall also provide for an EPA toll-free hotline that consumers can call for more information.

Authorizes the Governor of a State to determine not to apply such mailing requirement to a community water system serving fewer than 10,000 persons. Requires any such system to inform its customers that it will not be complying with such requirement, make information available upon request to the public regarding the quality of the water supplied by such system, and publish the report annually in one or more local newspapers serving the area in which customers of the system are located.

(Sec. 132) Revises enforcement provisions of the Act to require the Administrator to notify an appropriate local elected official prior to taking action to force a system to comply with Act requirements or commencing a civil suit. Requires notice and opportunity for a public hearing in cases where civil penalties are sought.

Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) system owner or operator submission of a plan for consolidation, or transfer of ownership, of the system (which, if approved, limits enforcement actions); (2) State authority for administrative penalties; and (3) judicial review.

Subtitle D: Exemptions and Variances - Specifies that for systems serving fewer than 3,300 persons, the maximum exemption period from any requirement regarding an MCL, any treatment technique requirement, or both, shall be four years if the State is exercising primary enforcement responsibility and determines that: (1) the system cannot meet the MCL or install Best Available Affordable Technology (BAAT) due to compelling economic circumstances and could not comply with the MCL through the use of alternate water supplies; (2) granting the exemption will provide a drinking water supply that protects public health given the duration of the exemption; and (3) the State has examined the system's technical, financial, and managerial capabilities to operate in, and maintain, compliance with the Act, has determined if management or restructuring changes that will result in compliance or improve the quality of the drinking water can reasonably be made, and, if so, requires such changes and a schedule therefor as a condition of the exemption.

Sets forth similar conditions under which a State having primary enforcement responsibility shall grant a system serving 3,300 persons or fewer a variance allowing the use of BAAT where: (1) no best technology or other means is listed under the Act for the applicable category of systems; and (2) the Administrator has identified BAAT for that contaminant pursuant to certain procedures.

Subtitle E: Lead Plumbing and Pipes - Modifies the Act to expand lead ban provisions to prohibit: (1) the use of any pipe, pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture, solder, or flux, in the installation or repair of any system or any plumbing in a facility providing water for human consumption that is not lead free; (2) the sale (or other introduction into commerce), two years after enactment, of pipes and pipe or plumbing fittings or fixtures that are not lead free, except for pipes that are used in manufacturing or industrial processing; and (3) persons in the business of selling plumbing supplies, except manufacturers, from selling solder or flux that is not lead free (and requires any person selling solder or flux to label the product to indicate that it is illegal to use such solder or flux in the installation or repair of any plumbing providing water for human consumption).

Provides that if voluntary standards for lead leaching from new plumbing fittings and fixtures are not established within one year, the Administrator, within two years, must issue regulations setting a performance standard establishing maximum leaching levels for fixtures intended to dispense water for human consumption (and, alternatively, if regulations are required but not issued within five years, bans the use of such plumbing or fixtures that contain more than four percent lead).

Subtitle F: Capacity Development - Requires each State to obtain the legal authority or other means to ensure that all new community water systems and new nontransient, noncommunity water systems commencing operation after October 1, 1999, demonstrate technical, managerial, and financial capacity with respect to each NPDW regulation in effect, or likely to be in effect, on the date of commencement of operations.

Requires each State to: (1) prepare, periodically update, and submit to the Administrator a list of such systems that have a history of significant noncompliance and the reasons for noncompliance; and (2) develop and implement a strategy to assist systems in acquiring and maintaining technical, managerial, and financial capacity. Establishes reporting requirements. Directs the Administrator to support the States in developing capacity development strategies.

Title II: Amendments to Part C - Requires the Administrator to: (1) publish guidance for States exercising primary enforcement responsibility for systems to carry out a source water assessment program within the State's boundaries; and (2) conduct a project to demonstrate the most effective and protective means of assessing and protecting source waters serving large metropolitan areas and located on Federal lands. Requires the State to make the results available to the public. Sets guidelines for approval and disapproval of State programs.

(Sec. 202) Requires each Federal department or agency that owns or operates any facility in a wellhead protection area, that is engaged in any activity at such facility resulting in the contamination of water supplies, or that owns or operates any system to comply with all Federal, State, interstate, and local requirements respecting the protection of such areas and systems. Waives U.S. immunity regarding any such requirement.

Authorizes: (1) the Administrator to issue an order assessing a penalty against a Federal agency found to have violated such a requirement; and (2) any interested person to obtain review of a penalty order so issued.

Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) limits on State use of funds collected from the Federal Government; and (2) citizen enforcement.

Title III: General Provisions Regarding Safe Drinking Water Act - Directs: (1) the Administrator to promulgate regulations specifying minimum standards for certification (and recertification) of the operators of community and nontransient noncommunity systems; and (2) any State exercising primary enforcement responsibility for systems to adopt and implement such requirements within two years, with an exception where the State has an operator certification program in effect on the date of enactment of this Act.

(Sec. 302) Authorizes the Administrator to provide technical assistance to small systems to enable them to achieve and maintain compliance with applicable NPDW regulations, which may include preliminary engineering evaluations. Authorizes appropriations. Bars the use of any portion of a State revolving fund (SRF) for lobbying expenses. Directs that three percent of the total amount appropriated be used for technical assistance to systems owned or operated by Indian tribes.

(Sec. 303) Authorizes appropriations for the public water system supervision (PWSS) program. Permits the Administrator to: (1) use a State's PWSS funds if the Administrator assumes primary enforcement responsibility for a State program; and (2) reserve a portion of SRFs from such a State if the PWSS grant appropriation is insufficient to fully administer a program in such State.

(Sec. 304) Revises monitoring and information gathering requirements of the Act, including: (1) granting the Administrator authority to obtain information on a case-by-case basis to determine whether a person subject to an NPDW regulation has acted or is acting in compliance with such requirements; and (2) requiring every person subject to an NPDW regulation to provide such information as the Administrator may reasonably require to assist in establishing regulations.

Directs the Administrator to: (1) review the monitoring requirements for not fewer than 12 contaminants identified by the Administrator and promulgate any necessary modifications; and (2) promulgate regulations establishing criteria for a monitoring program for unregulated contaminants.

Grants States exercising primary enforcement responsibility for systems specified interim and permanent monitoring relief authority.

Requires the Administrator to review new analytical methods to screen for regulated contaminants. Authorizes the Administrator to approve such methods as are more accurate or cost-effective than established methods for use in compliance monitoring.

(Sec. 305) Directs the Administrator to assemble and maintain a national drinking water occurrence data base, using information on the occurrence of both regulated and unregulated contaminants in systems and reliable information from public and private sources.

(Sec. 306) Specifies that pending State, as well as Federal, court actions to require compliance with the Act may serve as a bar to civil law suits.

(Sec. 307) Modifies the Act regarding whistle blower protection, including: (1) extending the time frame for an employee to file a discrimination complaint; (2) permitting the Secretary to determine that a violation has occurred only if the complainant has demonstrated that the involvement in an enforcement action was a contributing factor in the unfavorable personnel action; and (3) prohibiting relief from being ordered if the employer demonstrates that it would have taken the same personnel action in the absence of such behavior.

(Sec. 308) Creates a State Revolving Fund program to provide financial assistance to facilitate compliance with NPDW standards and for projects to further the health protection objectives of the Act. Directs the Administrator to enter into agreements to make capitalization grants to eligible States, contingent upon their establishment of a drinking water treatment revolving loan fund.

Sets forth provisions regarding the allocation of funds to States, permissible uses of funds, intended use plans, fund management, assistance for disadvantaged communities, State contributions, administration, a needs survey, allocations for Indian tribes and other areas, and set-asides. Authorizes appropriations.

Requires the Administrator to reserve $10 million for health effects studies on drinking water contaminants, giving priority to studies of cryptosporidium, disinfection byproducts, arsenic, and of subpopulations at greater risk of adverse effects.

(Sec. 309) Directs the Administrator to publish guidelines for water conservation plans for systems serving fewer than 3,300 persons, serving between 3,300 and 10,000 persons, and serving more than 10,000 persons. Authorizes a State to require a system seeking a loan or grant from an SRF to submit a water conservation plan consistent with such guidelines.

Title IV: Miscellaneous - Modifies the definition of: (1) "primary drinking water regulation" to authorize the Administrator, at any time after promulgating a regulation, to issue guidance allowing the use of other equally effective methods to comply with the monitoring requirements of the regulation; and (2) "public water system" to mean a system for the provision to the public of water for human consumption through pipes or other constructed conveyances, subject to specified requirements.

(Sec. 402) Authorizes appropriations to carry out the Act.

(Sec. 403) Authorizes the Administrator to provide financial assistance to New York State for demonstration projects implemented as part of the New York City watershed protection program. Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 404) Directs the Administrator to develop and implement a program to identify and regulate substances that may have effects on humans similar to those produced by naturally occurring estrogen or other endocrine effects.

Provides authority for the testing of other substances which may be found in sources of drinking water, including where the Administrator determines that a substantial population may be exposed to the substance.

Directs the Administrator to order registrants, manufacturers, or importers to conduct tests under the program and submit their results. Provides for suspension of the sale or distribution of a substance by a registrant who fails to comply with a test order concerning that substance. Makes any other person subject to a test order who fails to comply liable for penalties and sanctions as provided in the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Sets forth reporting requirements.

(Sec. 405) Requires the Administrator to report every two years to the Congress on the implementation of this Act for States and Indian tribes where the Administrator has revoked primary enforcement responsibility.

(Sec. 406) Specifies that water supplies from a system regulated under this Act shall not be used in connection with operation of geothermal heat pumps.

(Sec. 407) Increases the penalty for violating an emergency order issued under Act provisions involving imminent and substantial endangerment to health.

(Sec. 408) Requires the CDCP Director and the Administrator to jointly establish: (1) pilot waterborne disease occurrence studies for at least five major U.S. communities or systems, including a report on the findings and a national estimate of such occurrence; and (2) a national health care provider training and public education campaign. Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 409) Directs the Administrator to conduct a continuing program of studies to identify groups within the general population that are at greater risk than the general population of adverse health effects from exposure to contaminants in drinking water. Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 410) Modifies the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to: (1) establish standard of quality regulations for bottled water for each contaminant for which an NPDW regulation is issued by the Administrator, unless the Secretary determines that such regulation is not necessary because the contaminant is contained in water in systems but not in water used for bottled drinking water; (2) either promulgate a standard of quality regulation for such contaminants or make a determination that such regulation is unnecessary; and (3) establish a level for the contaminant in bottled water which is no less stringent than the MCL provided in the NPDW regulations for the same contaminant or requirements which are no less protective of public health than those applicable to water provided by systems using the treatment technique required by the NPDW regulation.

Specifies that if the Secretary does not promulgate standard of quality regulations within specified time frames, the NPDW regulation for such contaminant shall be considered as the regulation applicable to bottled water.

Title V: Additional Assistance for Water Infrastructure and Watersheds - Authorizes the Administrator to provide technical and financial assistance in the form of grants: (1) to States for the construction, rehabilitation, and improvement of water supply systems and for source water quality protection programs to address pollutants in navigable waters for the purpose of making such waters usable by water supply systems; (2) for a source water quality protection program for the New York City Watershed; (3) to Alaska for the benefit of rural and Alaska Native villages. Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 504) Sets forth provisions regarding the acquisition of lands, the Federal share, and a condition on authorizations.

Title VI: Drinking Water Research Authorization - Authorizes appropriations for drinking water research.

(Sec. 602) Directs the Administrator to assign to the Assistant Administrator for Research and Development the duties of: (1) developing a strategic plan for drinking water research activities throughout EPA; (2) integrating that plan into ongoing EPA planning activities; and (3) reviewing all EPA drinking water research to ensure such research is of high quality and non-duplicative of any other research being conducted by EPA.

Sets forth reporting requirements.