Water quality experts have been warning for years that cisterns and other water treatment plants could be contaminating drinking water with harmful bacteria, and they’ve been using that warning to pressure municipalities to allow cistern owners to disinfect their water.
The issue has gotten so dire that the EPA last month sent a letter to the states saying it’s ready to consider regulations to allow the treatment of wastewater for drinking.
That could include a mandate for wastewater treatment facilities to be properly equipped, tested, and certified to meet the federal Safe Drinking Water Act’s standards.
Now the EPA is adding another element to that checklist: water quality experts.
The EPA is sending letters to 17 states asking for proposals for guidelines for wastewater water treatment and deionization, according to a letter the agency sent to the governors of New Jersey and Delaware on Tuesday.
The EPA said the guidelines would be useful for communities looking to implement a “water safe management plan” or “waste water treatment plan,” which would require a specific level of water treatment for a specific area, such as a building or pond, to avoid harmful bacteria.
But the EPA also warned that “disinfection of wastewater facilities is likely to have a significant impact on water quality.”
In an emailed statement, the EPA said it was sending the letters because it wants to hear about any proposed wastewater treatment or deionisation guidelines that state governments have approved.
“The EPA continues to work closely with state officials and water utilities on water pollution regulations, and we have already issued several guidance letters to states in response to the 2015 EPA Watershed Protection Act, which required states to report water quality data to the EPA,” the agency said in the statement.
“While these letters do not address the specific requirements of the Clean Water Act, they do address issues surrounding water quality management and enforcement, and EPA has been working with the states to improve their compliance.”
The EPA has previously been more than willing to work with states to tackle water quality issues, and in January, the agency issued guidance for states to adopt standards that would allow the use of the federal Clean Water Rule to improve water quality.
In February, the Obama administration ordered a study of wastewater treatment and disinfection in the U.S. to determine whether wastewater treatment could improve water pollution, and a federal panel in January recommended that wastewater treatment be a condition of water-treatment contracts.
But the Obama EPA was also less than eager to be part of that study.
The federal study is the largest water pollution study ever conducted, and the EPA has made it clear that the results have to be used in making decisions about the future of the rule, and that they’re not going to be binding.
The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it is planning to pursue a similar study of water pollution.
But that doesn’t mean the EPA isn’t interested in getting involved in water pollution cases.
It’s not the first time the agency has asked states to submit wastewater-quality reports.
In March, the government sent letters to 15 states, asking for input on how to deal with contaminants found in drinking water from their wastewater treatment plants.
In a letter sent to a New York City resident, the federal government said the city’s wastewater treatment plant had been found to have levels of lead and arsenic that were above the federal guidelines.
And the EPA in a letter in September told a Pennsylvania resident that a wastewater treatment facility had been contaminated with bovine tuberculosis.