New EPA Plan Creates Framework to Propel Action on Drinking Water

Media Contacts
John Rumpler

Clean Water Director and Senior Attorney, Environment America

Environment America

Washington, DC – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday released a new Drinking Water Action Plan. The move comes in the wake of alarming instances of water contamination across the country – from lead pipes, algal blooms, chemical spills and more.  John Rumpler, Environment America’s clean water program director, issued this statement:  

In this plan, EPA has outlined a blueprint for action, with a goal of ensuring safe drinking water for all Americans.  Now it will be up to the next administration – and Congress – follow through with the resources and tough action needed to achieve that goal.

Here in the 21st century, communities across the country are facing threats to their drinking water.  While the ongoing tragedy in Flint is well-known, millions of Americans – including children in our schools – face risks of lead-laden tap water.  Yet documented contamination of drinking water goes well beyond lead – including toxic chemicals such as PFOA, factory farms, algal blooms, oil and gas operations, and nitrates. 

One great value of the EPA plan is that it explicitly confirms many of these pollution sources as threats to America’s drinking water.  Yet the plan is less clear on some of the specific tough actions needed to keep our water safe from these threats:

  • The EPA plan makes clear that safe drinking water begins at the source. EPA’s Clean Water Rule restored protections to streams that help provide drinking water to one in every three Americans.  Now we need strong action to keep drinking water sources off-limits to polluters.
  • The agency squarely acknowledges the need to address unregulated contaminants, “ranging from algal toxins related to harmful algal blooms, to industrial chemicals such as perfluorinated compounds (PFCs).” So, will we see enforceable pollution limits to stop toxic algal blooms in places like Lake Erie? 
  • The plan confirms the longstanding need to update the lead & copper rule.  But truly protecting our health will depend on the specifics – for example, dramatically lowering the level of lead at which utilities are required to act and ensuring that remediation really does “get the lead out.”  
  • Finally, the EPA plan reminds us that robust federal investment in water infrastructure will be crucial to ensuring safe water at the tap. The ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan highlights the need for Congress to act immediately in this regard.  We urge the current Congress to approve the full $300 million package in Section 7 of the Senate-approved WRDA bill, to assist not only Flint but also other communities dealing with lead in drinking water.

All Americans deserve safe drinking water.  EPA’s blueprint draws critical attention to this goal, but now it will take decisive action to achieve it.