United States                  Office of Water                EPA 815-F-00-004
                    Environmental Protection          (4607)                      April 2000

                       Proposed Ground Water Rule:
                       Questions and Answers

 1.     What is the action today?

 EPA is proposing to further protect America's drinking water by requiring, for the first time,
 action to protect groundwater sources of public drinking water supplies from disease-causing
 viruses and bacteria, such as E coh  The proposal will protect  109 million Americans, and
 prevent over 115,000 cases of illness and as many as 10 deaths per year. This rule will require
 identification of defects in water systems that could  lead to contamination and identification of
 sources of drinking water that are at risk of being contaminated  The rule requires monitoring for
 systems with sources at risk, and actions to remove or inactivate contaminants, if found, to
 prevent them from reaching drinking water consumers

 2  How is this rule related to recent Clinton/Gore Administration drinking water

 Since most Americans drink from public water systems at some point, whether in their home, at
 school, or at a restaurant, these three rules together will protect almost all Americans from
 waterbome diseases.  In December 1998, President Clinton announced a major rule to control
 Cryptosporidium in large drinking water systems (those serving at least 10,000 people each)  In
 March, 2000, Vice President Gore announced a new rule that extended those protections to
 persons served by small water systems (those serving fewer than 10,000 people). Today's rule
 proposes the first ever requirements that water systems which use ground water also protect
 against disease-causing microbial contaminants, including viruses and bacteria.

 3  Why is EPA proposing this rule?

 EPA's Science Advisory Board concluded in 1990 that exposure to microbial contaminants such
 as bacteria, viruses, and protozoa (e g., Gmrdm lamblia and Cryptosporidium) was likely the
 greatest remaining health risk management challenge for drinking water suppliers Illness can
 result from exposure to microbial pathogens ranging from mild to moderate cases lasting only a
 few days  to more severe infections that can last several weeks and may result in death for those
 with weakened immune systems

 Although ground water has historically been considered free of contamination, Center for
Disease Control  data shows that 318  waterbome disease outbreaks associated with ground water
systems occurred between 1971 and 1996  Eighty-six percent of these outbreaks were
associated with contaminated source waters,  and half of those outbreaks occurred in systems that

were already using some kind of disinfection This data indicated a need to strengthen
monitoring, prevention, inactivation and removal of contaminants from ground water systems
4 Does todayís rule protect ground water systems from Cryptosporidiuin and Giardia?
No, because disease-causing microbes such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia are not found in
ground water They only occur in surface water, and ground water under the direct influence of
surface water, and are covered by the two previous regulations announced by President Clinton
and Vice President Gore This proposed rule will protect against E coli, a microscopic bactena
found in animal wastes
5. What causes contamination of ground water?
Viral and bacterial pathogens are present in human and animal feces, which can, in turn,
contaminate dnnking water Fecal contamination can reach ground water sources, including
drinking water wells, from failed septic systems, leaking sewer lines, and by passing through the
soil and large cracks in the ground Fecal contamination from the surface may also get into a
drinking water well along its casing or through cracks if the well is not properly constructed,
protected, or maintained. Fecal contamination may also enter the clistnbution system, such as
6 How many water systems are affected?
The proposed ground water rule will apply to all 157,000 U S. public water systems that use
ground water as a source Most of these are small systems This includes water systems which
serve the same populations year-round, such as houses and apartment buildings, as well as
systems that provide dnnking water only parts of the year, such as schools or campgrounds
7 How much will this cost?
The average cost for 90 percent of U S. households served by public ground water systems is
expected to be less than $5 00 per year.
8. How will drinking water systems pay for the new requirements?
Under the Safe Dnnking Water Act Amendments of 1996, President Clinton called for and
Congress approved the first-ever loan program to help states and communities finance the costs
of improving drinking water treatment facilities To date, $3 6 billion has been appropriated to
ensure that local drinking water systems have the resources to protect Americaís drinking water
President Clinton requested $825 million for FY 2001 for this loan fund
9. What is EPA doing to assist small systems?

Each year, 15 percent of the drinking water loans must be used to provide infrastructure loans to
small systems These loans will help pay for new requirements under the new rule such as fixing
defects in systems or adding disinfection
EPA has developed a variety of free materials for small system operators to inform them about
new drinking water regulations, best available technologies to meet new requirements, and
funding available to them EPA posts information on its drinking water website at
www epa gov/safcwater on the Internet. EPA also provides assistance through the Safe Drinking
Water Hotline at 1-877-EPA -WATER.
10 How does the Safe Drinking Water Act protect Americans?
Enacted in 1974, the Safe Dnnking Water Act is the pnmary national law to protect our
public drinking water supplies It establishes public health standards for contaminants found in
dnnking water In 1996, President Clinton requested and Congress enacted the amendments to
the Act to strengthen and expand the nationís drinking water protections in four major areas.
First, the new Act gives all Amencans the right to know what contaminants are in their drinking
water. Second, it strengthens standards to protect public health from the most significant threats
to safe drinking water. Third, it provides first-ever money through a loan program for
communities to upgrade dnnking water systems. And fourth, it provides unprecedented
protection for the sources of our dnnking water, like nvers and lakes, to prevent contamination
of the nationís drinking water
11. Is my water safe?
More than 90 percent of the people served by community water systems receive tap water that
meets tough federal health standards Since 1993, 22 5 million more Americans are receiving
water from utilities reporting no violations of federal health standards. But, due to new and
emerging threats, we must remain vigilant in protecting the nationís drinking water.