The Clinton Administration announced a proposal yesterday to improve drinking water quality for 109 million Americans by protecting groundwater supplies from disease-causing viruses and bacteria.
The proposed rule is expected to prevent more than 115,000 illnesses a year.
"This is another step by our administration to ensure that Americans enjoy the safest drinking water possible," said Vice President Al Gore. "More than 90 percent of Americans receive tap water that meets all federal health standards -- nearly 22. 5 million more than in 1993. This new proposal will bring us even closer to the day when every community in American has clean, safe drinking water."
Approximately 157,000 public water systems in the United States draw all or part of their drinking water from underground sources.
At present, the use of disinfectants to prevent waterborne disease is required only in public water systems supplied by surface waters, such as rivers, lakes and streams.
However, new research indicates that groundwater supplies also can be susceptible to contamination from a range of sources, including failed municipal sewage treatment systems and failed individual septic systems.
Under the new rule proposed by EPA, states would be required to survey all drinking water systems, and ground water systems at risk of contamination would be required to monitor their sources and take corrective action such as disinfecting to address any contamination found.
Drinking water suppliers using ground water also would be required to fix defects in their systems that could lead to contamination.
The proposed rule would not affect private wells serving individual homes.
EPA recommends that private well owners test their wells annually for coliform bacteria.
"This administration has made delivering safe, healthy drinking water to communities throughout the country a major priority," said EPA Administrator Carol Browner. "This announcement further builds on our communities healthier."
EPA will take public comment on the proposed Ground Water Rule for 60 days.
For more information go to the agency's Web site at www.epa.gov/safewater/ gwr.html.