Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Conference report filed in House (08/01/1996)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Title I: Amendments to Safe Drinking Water Act

Title II: Drinking Water Research

Title III: Miscellaneous Provisions

Title IV: Additional Assistance for Water Infrastructure and

Watersheds

Title V: Clerical Amendments

Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 - Title I: Amendments to Safe Drinking Water Act - Amends the Safe Drinking Water Act (the Act) to: (1) define "community water system" as a public water system (system) that serves at least 15 service connections used by year-long residents or that regularly serves at least 25 year-round residents; and (2) revise the definition of "public water system" to mean a system to provide water for human consumption through pipes or other constructed conveyances, subject to specified requirements.

Specifies that a "connection" to a system that delivers water by a constructed conveyance other than a pipe shall not be considered a connection if: (1) the water is used exclusively for purposes other than residential uses; or (2) the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or a State exercising primary enforcement responsibility for systems (primacy State) determines that alternative water to achieve the equivalent level of public health protection provided by the applicable national primary drinking water (NPDW) regulation is provided for residential or similar uses for drinking and cooking, or that the water provided for residential or similar uses for drinking, cooking, and bathing is centrally treated or treated at the point of entry by the provider, a pass-through entity, or the user to achieve the equivalent level of protection provided by the applicable NPDW regulations.

Sets forth transition provisions regarding a water supplier that would be a system only as a result of modifications made under this Act. Directs the Comptroller General of the United States to undertake a study to: (1) ascertain the numbers and locations of individuals and households relying on irrigation water and other specified systems for their residential water needs; (2) determine the sources, costs, and affordability of water used for residential needs; and (3) review State and water system compliance with the Act.

(Sec. 102) Modifies the Act to require the Administrator to publish a maximum contaminant level (MCL) goal and promulgate an NPDW regulation for specified contaminants upon determining that: (1) the contaminant may have an adverse effect on the health of persons and is known to occur or there is a substantial likelihood that the contaminant will occur in systems with a frequency and at levels of public health concern; and (2) in the sole judgment of the Administrator, regulation of such contaminant presents a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by systems.

Directs the Administrator: (1) every five years, to publish a list of contaminants which are not subject to any proposed or promulgated NPDW, which are known or anticipated to occur in systems, and which may require regulation and to make determinations of whether to regulate not fewer than five contaminants; and (2) to select for consideration unregulated contaminants that present the greatest public health concern.

Authorizes the Administrator to: (1) promulgate an interim NPDW regulation for a contaminant without making a required determination, or completing a required analysis, to address an urgent public health threat; and (2) publish health advisories or take other appropriate actions for contaminants not subject to any NPDW regulation.

Sets forth provisions regarding schedules and deadlines for the publication of MCL goals and promulgation of NPDW regulations, including regarding substitution of contaminants and disinfectants and disinfection byproducts.

(Sec. 103) Directs the Administrator: (1) to use the best available science in regulatory decision making, to ensure that the presentation of information on public health effects is comprehensive, informative, and understandable, and to prepare a health risk reduction and cost analysis for new regulations; (2) at the time an NPDW regulation is proposed, to publish a determination of whether the MCL benefits justify the costs; and (3) when issuing new regulations, to identify affordable treatment technologies for small systems serving populations of 3,300 to 10,000, populations of 500 to 3,300, and populations of 25 to 500, and to promulgate a regulation to govern the recycling of filter backwash water within the treatment process of a system.

(Sec. 106) Authorizes a primacy State 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. 107) 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 rule making for disinfectants and disinfectant byproducts.

(Sec. 108) Makes NPDW regulations effective three years after promulgation, with exceptions.

(Sec. 109) Directs the Administrator to: (1) propose by January 1, 2000, and promulgate by January 1, 2001, an NPDW regulation for arsenic and to develop a comprehensive plan for a study in support of drinking water rule making to reduce the uncertainty in assessing health risks associated with exposure to low levels of arsenic.

Requires the Administrator and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), prior to promulgating an NPDW regulation for sulfate, to jointly conduct an additional study to establish a reliable dose-response relationship for the adverse human health effects that may result from exposure to sulfate in drinking water.

Directs the Administrator to: (1) arrange for the National Academy of Sciences to prepare a risk assessment for radon in drinking water and an analysis of health risk reduction benefits associated with various mitigation measures to reduce radon levels in indoor air; and (2) withdraw any NPDW regulation for radon proposed prior to enactment, propose an MCL goal and NPDW regulation, and promulgate a final NPDW regulation based on such assessment and analysis.

Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) alternative MCL levels for radon; and (2) development by States of multimedia programs to mitigate radon levels in indoor air.

(Sec. 111) Directs the Administrator, concurrently with promulgating an NPDW regulation for a contaminant, to issue guidance or regulations describing the best treatment technologies or techniques or other means for the contaminant that the Administrator finds, after examination for efficacy under field conditions, are available and affordable for systems of varying size, considering the quality of the source water to be treated, subject to specified requirements.

(Sec. 112) Modifies the Act to: (1) 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; (2) 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 (and increases civil penalties for violations of, or failure or refusal to comply with, any order issued by the Administrator in response to an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health); and (3) 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 (but 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.

Specifies that any community water system which is not required to meet such mailing requirement and which serves 500 persons or fewer, may elect not to comply, subject to specified requirements, including that it prepare an annual consumer confidence report and provide at least annual notice to each of its customers that such report is available upon request.

Requires the Administrator of the Food and Drug Administration to publish for public notice and comment a draft study on the feasibility of appropriate methods, if any, of informing customers of the contents of bottled water.

(Sec. 115) Modifies the Act to provide that: (1) a variance may be issued to a system on condition that it install the best technology, treatment techniques, or other means available (taking costs into consideration); and (2) a schedule prescribed for a system granted a variance shall be based upon an evaluation satisfactory to the State that indicates that alternative sources of water are not reasonably available to the system.

(Sec. 116) Authorizes a primacy State to grant a variance for compliance with a requirement specifying an MCL or treatment technique contained in an NPDW regulation to systems serving 3,300 or fewer persons and, with the Administrator's approval, to systems serving between 3,300 and 10,000 persons, under specified circumstances.

(Sec. 117) Authorizes a primacy State to exempt any system within the State's jurisdiction from any requirement respecting an MCL, any treatment technique requirement, or both, of an applicable NPDW regulation upon finding that, due to compelling factors, the system is unable to implement measures to develop an alternative source of water supply. Bars a system from receiving an exemption if it was granted a small system variance.

(Sec. 118) 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 that is not lead free in the installation or repair of any system or any plumbing in a facility providing water for human consumption; (2) the sale (or other introduction into commerce), two years after enactment, of pipes and pipe or plumb 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 that is not lead free 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).

Directs the Administrator: (1) to provide accurate and timely technical information and assistance to qualified third-party certifiers in the development of voluntary standards and testing protocols for the leaching of lead from new plumbing fittings and fixtures that are intended by the manufacturer to dispense water for human ingestion; and (2) within two years, if voluntary standards for lead leaching from new plumbing fittings and fixtures are not established within one year, to 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).

(Sec. 119) Provides that a State shall receive only 80 percent of the allotment that the State is otherwise entitled under provisions regarding State loan funds unless the State has obtained 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.

Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) systems in significant noncompliance; and (2) capacity development strategy (limits allotments to States not developing and implementing strategies to assist systems in acquiring and maintaining such capacity).

Directs the Administrator to: (1) support the States in developing specified capacity development strategies; (2) provide initial funding for one or more university-based environmental finance centers for activities that provide technical assistance to State and local officials in developing the capacity of systems; and (3) establish a national system capacity development clearinghouse. Authorizes appropriations.

Authorizes the Administrator to make grants to institutions of higher learning to establish and operate small system technology assistance centers in the United States. Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 120) Modifies the Act to authorize: (1) appropriations for critical aquifer protection, wellhead protection, and underground water source protection programs; and (2) the Administrator to collect and make available information pertaining to research, investigations, and demonstrations regarding providing a dependably safe supply of drinking water, together with appropriate recommendations, and to make available EPA research facilities to appropriate public authorities, institutions, and individuals.

(Sec. 122) 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 circuit-rider and multi-State regional technical assistance programs, training, and preliminary engineering evaluations. Authorizes appropriations. Bars the use of any portion of a State revolving loan fund (SLF) 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. 123) Amends the Act to require the Administrator to: (1) publish guidelines specifying minimum standards for certification and recertification of the operators of community and nontransient noncommunity systems; and (2) withhold certain funds unless the State has adopted and is implementing a program for the certification of operators of community and nontransient noncommunity systems that meet specified requirements.

(Sec. 124) Authorizes appropriations for the public water system supervision (PWSS) program. Permits the Administrator, if the Administrator assumes primary enforcement responsibility for a State program, to use a State's PWSS funds, and to reserve a portion of SLFs from such a State (if the PWSS grant appropriation is insufficient to fully administer a program in such State), to ensure the full and effective administration of a public water system supervision program in the State.

(Sec. 125) 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 and promulgate any necessary modifications and promulgate regulations establishing criteria for a monitoring program for unregulated contaminants which meet specified requirements; (2) review new analytical methods to screen for regulated contaminants; and (3) assemble and maintain a national drinking water occurrence data base.

(Sec. 127) Directs that two members of the National Drinking Water Advisory Council be associated with small, rural systems.

(Sec. 128) 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. 129) Modifies the Act to make each department, agency, and instrumentality of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Federal Government owning or operating any facility in a wellhead protection area and engaged in any activity at such facility resulting in the contamination of water supplies, or owning or operating any system or engaging in any activity resulting in underground injection which endangers drinking water, subject to all Federal, State, interstate, and local requirements respecting the protection of such wellhead areas, systems, and any underground injection to the same extent as any person, including requirements governing the payment of reasonable service charges.

Authorizes the Administrator to issue a penalty order and assess a penalty of up to $25,000 per day per violation against a Federal agency.

Sets forth provisions regarding limits on State use of funds collected from the Federal Government and citizen enforcement.

Prohibits the Secretary of the Army from passing on the cost of any such penalty assessed to any customer, user, or other purchaser of drinking water from the Washington Aqueduct system.

(Sec. 130) Creates an SLF 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, reallotment, permissible uses of funds, intended use plans, fund management assistance for disadvantaged communities, State contributions, types of assistance, administration, a needs survey, allocations for Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages, and other areas (with funds used to address the most significant threats to public health associated with systems that serve Indian tribes), and other authorized activities. Directs the Administrator to prepare surveys and assess the needs of drinking water treatment facilities to serve Indian tribes. Authorizes appropriations.

Requires the Administrator to: (1) 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; (2) reserve $2 million from funds appropriated for each fiscal year beginning with FY 1998 to pay the costs of monitoring for unregulated contaminants; and (3) conduct an evaluation of the effectiveness of the SLFs through FY 2001.

Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) a demonstration project for the State of Virginia; and (2) small system technical assistance.

(Sec. 131) Authorizes the Administrator to make a grant to a State for the development and implementation of a State program to ensure the coordinated and comprehensive protection of ground water resources within the State, subject to specified requirements. Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 132) Requires the Administrator to: (1) publish guidance for primacy State 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 located on Federal lands. Sets forth guidelines for approval and disapproval of State programs.

(Sec. 133) Authorizes a State to establish a program under which an owner or operator of a community water system in the State, or a municipal or local government or political subdivision of a State, may submit a source water quality protection partnership petition requesting that the State assist in the local development of a voluntary, incentive-based partnership among the owner, operator, or government and other persons likely to be affected by the recommendations of the partnership to: (1) reduce the presence in drinking water of contaminants that may be addressed by a petition by considering the origins of the contaminants; (2) obtain financial or technical assistance necessary to facilitate establishment, or to develop and implement recommendations, of a partnership for the protection of source water to assist in the provision of drinking water that complies with NPDW regulations for contaminants addressed by a petition; and (3) develop recommendations regarding voluntary and incentive-based strategies for the long-term protection of the source water of community water systems.

(Sec. 134) 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 SLF to submit a water conservation plan consistent with such guidelines.

(Sec. 135) Authorizes the Administrator and heads of other appropriate Federal agencies to award grants to Arizona, California, New Mexico, or Texas to provide assistance to eligible communities to facilitate compliance with NPDW regulations or otherwise significantly further health protection objectives of the Act. Authorizes the Administrator to provide for testing under a specified screening program under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of any other substance that may be found in sources of drinking water if the Administrator determines that a substantial population may be exposed to such substance.

(Sec. 137) Directs the Administrator to conduct, and periodically report to the Congress regarding, 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. Requires the CDCP Director and the Administrator to jointly conduct pilot waterborne disease occurrence studies for at least five major U.S. communities or systems, to report on the findings and a national estimate of such occurrence, and to establish a national health care provider training and public education campaign. Authorizes appropriations.

Title II: Drinking Water Research - Authorizes appropriations for drinking water research for FY 1997 through 2003.

(Sec. 202) Directs the Administrator to develop a strategic plan for drinking water research activities throughout EPA, integrate such plan into ongoing EPA planning activities, and review all EPA drinking water research to ensure the research is of high quality and does not duplicate any other research being conducted by EPA.

(Sec. 203) Authorizes the Administrator to reestablish a partnership between the Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Laboratory and the National Center for Ground Water Research to conduct research, training, and technology transfer for ground water quality protection and restoration.

Title III: Miscellaneous Provisions - Repeals specified provisions regarding geothermal heat pumps.

(Sec. 302) Authorizes a Governor of a State, at any time beyond one year after a State establishes an SLF under this Act but prior to FY 2002, to reserve: (1) up to 33 percent of the capitalization grant and add the funds reserved to any funds provided to the State pursuant to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) regarding State water pollution control revolving funds; and (2) in any year a dollar amount up to that so reserved for that year from the capitalization grants and add the reserved funds to any funds provided to the State pursuant to the SLF provisions of the Act.

(Sec. 303) Authorizes the Administrator to make grants to the State of Alaska for the benefit of rural and Native villages to pay the Federal share of the cost of: (1) the development and construction of systems and wastewater systems to improve the health and sanitation conditions in the villages; and (2) training, technical assistance, and educational programs relating to the operation and management of sanitation services in rural and Native villages. Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 304) Expresses the sense of the Congress that appropriations for grants relating to the New York City watershed, the colonias, and Alaska Native villages, should not be provided if such appropriations would prevent the adequate capitalization of State SLFs.

(Sec. 305) Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to require the Secretary to promulgate a standard of quality regulation for a contaminant in bottled water or make a finding that such a regulation is not necessary to protect the public health because the contaminant is contained in water in systems but not in water used for bottled drinking water.

(Sec. 306) Encourages and grants congressional consent to the customers (the District of Columbia, Arlington County, Virginia, and the city of Falls Church, Virginia) to establish a non-Federal public or private entity, or to enter into an agreement with such an existing entity, to receive title to the Washington Aqueduct and operate, maintain, and manage it in a manner that adequately represents all interests of its customers. Sets forth provisions regarding reporting requirements, the transfer of Federal interests in the Aqueduct to such entity, borrowing authority, and reissuance of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the Aqueduct.

(Sec. 307) Authorizes the Administrator and the heads of other appropriate Federal agencies to award grants to Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas to provide assistance to eligible communities for the planning, design, and construction or improvement of sewers, treatment works, and appropriate connections for wastewater treatment. Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 308) Amends the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 to include representatives of the Lake Champlain Basin Program as ex officio members of the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force.

Title IV: Additional Assistance for Water Infrastructure and Watersheds - Authorizes the Administrator to provide technical and financial assistance to States: (1) for the construction, rehabilitation, and improvement of water supply systems; and (2) consistent with nonpoint source management programs established under the FWPCA, for source water quality protection programs to address pollutants in navigable waters for the purpose of making such waters usable by water supply systems (but specifies that not more than 30 percent of the amounts appropriated to carry out this title in a fiscal year may be used for such programs).

Sets forth provisions regarding a condition on receipt of such assistance and the Federal cost share. Authorizes appropriations.

Title V: Clerical Amendments - Makes miscellaneous technical and clerical amendments to the Act.