Saturday, May 6, 2017

Environmental group lists Ky. among top 5 states for number of people affected by violations of safe drinking water regulations

Kentucky is ranked in the top five states for the number of people affected by health-based violations of federal drinking water laws, Erica Peterson reports for WFPL in Louisville, drawing on a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

The NRDC identified water systems with at least one reported violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Most of the violations involved disinfection byproducts, coliform bacteria, pathogens, nitrates, nitrites, lead and copper. The violations are estimated to affect more than 1.5 million Kentuckians.

“What our review of EPA data found is that nearly 77 million Americans are served by community water systems that have violations,” Erik Olson, NRDC health program director and co-author of the report, told Peterson. “That represents about one in four Americans.”

State officials disagreed with the non-profit’s characterization of violations. In an statement In an emailed statement to WFPL, Energy and Environment Cabinet spokesman John Mura said the safety of drinking water in the commonwealth is a top priority for regulators and that the NRDC report was not based in fact, Peterson reports.

“NRDC’s characterization of public drinking water is irresponsible and does not promote meaningful dialogue regarding the important concerns of safe drinking water and drinking water infrastructure investment,” Mura wrote.

Peterson writes that NRDC's "estimate of violations is lower than the actual figures" in an Energy and Environment Cabinet report, which shows Kentucky water systems had nearly a thousand violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in 2015; and 142 of them, or 14 percent, are listed as resolved. The NRDC says this lack of enforcement is a national trend.

Statewide and county-level data that list the number of people served by each water system and the number of violations is available on the NRDC website on an interactive map. The report notes that most of the drinking water violations occur in rural areas, and "systems serving less than 500 people accounted for nearly 70 percent of all violations and a little over half of all health-based violations."

Most of Kentucky's water violations of the Combined Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts rule, which establishes health standards for water systems that add disinfectants, like chlorine, to their water. Adding chemicals to disinfect water has established benefits, but they can react with naturally occurring chemicals in water to create byproducts that can harm human health if not managed properly.

$500 million program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been available for infrastructure improvements for rural water systems, and was fully funded in the latest federal spending agreement that goes through September, but its future could be uncertain because President Donald Trump originally eliminated this funding in his budget proposal.

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