Fact Sheet: Announcement of
                       Revisions to  the  Total Col if orm  Rule
     United States
     Environmental Protection
     Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revised the 1989 Total Coliform Rule (TCR), a
national primary drinking water regulation (NPDWR).  The purpose of the 1989 TCR is to
protect public health by ensuring the integrity of the drinking water distribution system and
monitoring for the presence of microbial contamination. EPA anticipates greater public health
protection under the revised requirements, which are based on recommendations by a federal
advisory committee and the agency's consideration of public comments. The final Revised Total
Coliform Rule (RTCR):

  Requires public water systems that are vulnerable to microbial contamination to identify and
   fix problems; and
  Establishes criteria for public water systems to qualify for and stay on reduced monitoring,
   which could reduce water system burden and provide incentives for better system operation.

The 1989 TCR remains effective until March 31, 2016. PWSs and primacy agencies must
comply with the requirements of the RTCR beginning April 1, 2016.

Questions and Answers

Where can I find the revisions?
What are the basic requirements of the 1989 TCR?
Why did EPA decide to revise the 1989 TCR?
How have monitoring frequencies changed?
How has the standard for total coliforms changed?
How has the public notification  requirement changed?
How did EPA identify the changes to the 1989 TCR?
Who will be affected by the RTCR?
How much will the RTCR cost public water systems and consumers?
When do public water systems and primacy agencies need to comply with the RTCR?
How can I get more information?
Where can I find the revisions?
Copies of the Federal Register Notice can be downloaded from the Total Coliform Rule Web
site at http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/tcr/regulation.cfm.

What are the basic requirements of the 1989 TCR?
The TCR (published in 1989) is the only microbial drinking water regulation that applies to all
public water systems (PWSs). Systems are required to meet legal limits (i.e., Maximum

Office of Water (4607M)    EPA 815-F-12-007  December 2012  http://www.epa.gov/safewater

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Contaminant Levels (MCL)) for total coliforms, including fecal coliforms, as determined by
regular monitoring.  The 1989 TCR specifies the frequency and timing of the microbial testing
by water systems based on population served. The rule also requires public notification as
indicated by monitoring results.

Why did EPA decide to revise the 1989 TCR?
The Safe Drinking Water Act, as amended, requires EPA to review and revise, as appropriate,
each NPDWR not less often than every six years. The outcome of the review of the 1989 TCR
determined that there was an opportunity to reduce implementation burden and to improve rule
effectiveness, and that revising the rule offered an opportunity for greater public health
protection against waterborne pathogens in the public drinking water distribution systems.

How have monitoring  frequencies changed?
While retaining the basic monitoring requirements of the 1989 TCR, the RTCR links monitoring
frequency to water quality and system performance by:
  Providing criteria that well-operated small systems must meet to qualify and stay on reduced
   monitoring;
  Requiring increased monitoring for high-risk small systems with unacceptable compliance
   history; and
  Requiring some new monitoring requirements for seasonal systems such as campgrounds and
   some state and national parks.

How has the standard for total coliforms changed?
The final RTCR establishes a health goal (Maximum Contaminant Level Goal, or MCLG) and
an MCL for E. coll and  eliminates the MCLG and MCL for total coliforms, replacing it with a
treatment technique for coliforms that requires assessment and corrective action.

  The revised rule is establishing an MCLG of 0 for E. coli, a more specific indicator of fecal
   contamination and potential harmful pathogens than total coliform. EPA has removed the
   1989 MCLG and MCL for total coliform.  Many of the organisms detected by total coliform
   methods are not of fecal origin  and do not have any direct public health implication. The
   "acute" total coliform MCL violation under the 1989 TCR has been maintained as  the MCL
   for E. coli under the RTCR.
  Under the new treatment technique for coliforms, total coliforms serve as an indicator of a
   potential pathway of contamination into the distribution system. A PWS that exceeds a
   specified frequency of total coliform occurrence must conduct an assessment to determine if
   any  sanitary defects exist and, if found, correct them. In addition, under the new treatment
   technique requirements, a PWS that incurs an E. coli MCL violation must conduct an
   assessment and correct any sanitary defects found.

How has the public notification requirement changed?
The revised rule is eliminating monthly public notification requirements based only on the
presence of total coliforms.  Total coliforms in the distribution system may indicate a potential
pathway for contamination but in and of themselves do not indicate a health threat. Instead, the
RTCR requires public notification when an E. coli MCL violation occurs, indicating a potential
health threat, or when a PWS fails to conduct the required assessment and corrective action.

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How did EPA identify the changes to the 1989 TCR?
EPA established a federal advisory committee called the Total Coliform Rule Distribution
System Advisory Committee in 2007 to recommend revisions to the 1989 TCR. The advisory
committee was comprised of a balanced panel of 15 key stakeholder organizations, including
EPA, states and tribal representatives, utility associations, and advocacy groups for environment,
public health, epidemiology, and consumers.  The advisory committee signed an Agreement in
Principle (AIP) outlining its recommendations in 2008. In July 2010, EPA proposed a rule that
was consistent with the AIP and gave the public an opportunity to review and comment on the
proposed rule. EPA considered the comments it received on the proposed rule in finalizing the
RTCR.

Who will be affected by the RTCR?
The entities potentially affected by this final rule are PWSs that are classified as community
water systems (e.g., systems that provide water to year-round residents in places like homes or
apartment buildings) or non-community water systems (e.g., systems that provide water to
people in locations such as schools, office buildings, restaurants, etc.); state primacy agencies;
and local and tribal governments. As with the 1989 TCR, the RTCR will impact approximately
154,000 PWSs. These water systems serve approximately 307  million individuals.

How much will the RTCR cost public water systems and consumers?
The estimated net incremental  cost of the RTCR is $14 million annually. This represents total
increased costs relative to the 1989 TCR provisions. PWSs are estimated to incur approximately
90 percent of the revised rule's net annualized present value costs.  States/primacy agencies incur
the remaining costs.

When do public water systems and primacy agencies need to comply with the RTCR?
PWSs and primacy agencies must comply with the requirements of the RTCR beginning April  1,
2016.

How can I get more information?
For additional information about the rule, please visit the EPA Total Coliform Rule Web site,
http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/tcr/regulation.cfm.

You may also visit the EPA Drinking Water Web site at www.water.epa.gov/drink or contact the
Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791, for more information about the rule or for
general information on drinking water. Local or international calls can reach the Hotline at 703-
412-3330. The Safe Drinking Water Hotline is open Monday through Friday, excluding legal
holidays, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern time.

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