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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced commitments from 12 major U.S. passenger airlines to implement new aircraft water testing and disinfection protocols. These protocols will further protect the traveling public while existing guidance governing potable water aboard passenger aircraft continues to be reviewed by EPA.
Agreements have been signed with Alaska Airlines, Aloha Airlines, American Airlines, America West, ATA Airlines, Continental Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Midwest Airlines, Northwest Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways. Two additional airlines, Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines, are currently negotiating separate agreements with EPA. Collectively, these 14 carriers represent the majority of U.S. flag carrying aircraft transporting the flying public. The Agency will continue to work with smaller, regional and charter aircraft carriers to address drinking water quality with agreements similar to those reached with ATA members.
The announcement follows the public disclosure of EPA testing of drinking water aboard 158 randomly selected passenger aircraft during August and September 2004. Preliminary data released by EPA on Sept. 20, 2004 showed that 12.6 percent of the 158 domestic and international passenger aircraft tested in the United States carried water that did not meet EPA standards.
Since that time, the Air Transport Association, which represents the 14 major U.S. airlines and its members, have worked with EPA to develop an agreement that will immediately reduce public health risks to passengers and provide additional testing to help the Agency determine the nature and extent of the problem.
"The agreements we are announcing today will provide critical additional information, and at the same time provide increased protection to the flying public," said Thomas V. Skinner, acting assistant administrator for EPAs Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "EPA and the airlines have worked hard to address the issues raised by the initial water quality test results."
The agreements in place call for airlines to increase monitoring and implement quarterly disinfection of water delivery systems aboard passenger aircraft. They will strengthen public notification requirements when testing reveals water that does not meet EPA standards. Airlines will also be required to perform an analysis of possible sources of contamination that exist outside of the aircraft and to provide information related to practices of boarding water from foreign public water supplies not regulated by EPA.
"Today's actions will help the Agency develop new regulations for monitoring and maintaining aircraft water systems," said Benjamin Grumbles, acting assistant administrator for EPAs Office of Water. "The new regulations will ensure safe drinking water for airline passengers while reflecting the unique characteristics of aircraft."
EPA began a review of existing guidance in 2002. In response to the aircraft test results in August and September, EPA has initiated an accelerated rule-making process to develop regulations for water aboard aircraft. The Agency will work collaboratively with other federal agencies overseeing the airline industry, industry representatives and the interested public to identify appropriate requirements ensuring safe drinking water aboard aircraft. The agreement announced today and resulting administrative orders signed by the airlines will govern airline drinking water safety until final regulations are released.
EPA is also announcing the initiation of additional water quality inspections, beginning today, on 169 randomly selected domestic and international passenger aircraft at 14 airports throughout the United States and will make those results available to the public by early January.
For more information on the regulation of water supplies aboard passenger aircraft and to view publicly available testing data, visit http://www.epa.gov/airlinewater.