By Carolyn Berndt
Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a memorandum, "Safe Drinking Water Act - Consumer Confidence Report Delivery Options," clarifying options for delivering Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs). The memorandum clarifies that water suppliers may use electronic delivery options for CCRs, including delivery of the report's URL, to comply with the requirement to "directly deliver" the CCR. NLC supports this decision.
The purpose of the CCR is to raise customers' awareness of where their drinking water comes from, the quality of their drinking water, what it takes to deliver water to their home, and the importance of protecting drinking water sources. The CCR Rule, as established in the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act and finalized in 1998, requires each community water system serving more than 10,000 people to mail or otherwise directly deliver a copy of its CCR to each customer annually.
There are approximately 51,651 community water systems in the country that are currently publishing and distributing the CCRs to their consumers.
In August 2011, EPA identified the CCR Rule in the Agency's Final Plan for Periodic Retrospective Reviews of Existing Regulations as directed by Executive Order 13563: Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review (Jan. 2011). During the Retrospective Review, EPA identified opportunities for improving the effectiveness of the methods used to communicate drinking water information to the public, while lowering the burden on water systems.
In September 2012, EPA published a draft Consumer Confidence Report: Electronic Delivery Options and Considerations that evaluated several electronic delivery methods to determine which forms meet existing CCR Rule requirements. In comments to the agency last fall, NLC urged EPA to allow a "flexible approach, including use of electronic delivery options, for reporting information about the source and quality of drinking water to consumers when there is no violation of drinking water standards."
EPA's initiative had been occurring simultaneously with congressional efforts to change the law to allow for similar electronic delivery of the CCRs, led by Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) and Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA) in the 2011-2012 Congressional session.