Nov 08, 2012

EPA Puts Water Utility on Notice for Drinking Water System Deficiencies

Inspection reveals excessive level of chemicals in utility’s drinking water supply systems

U.S. EPA Regulations Compliance GWA Drinking Water Disinfection GWA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a letter and inspection report to the Guam Waterworks Authority (GWA) identifying numerous deficiencies in the utility’s drinking water supply systems uncovered in a May 2012 inspection and sanitary survey.

While the systems’ deficiencies do not pose an immediate health threat, EPA’s inspection revealed a pattern of poor maintenance that could lead to further deterioration, eventually impacting water quality. Currently, the system's only violation is an excessive level of chemicals formed as a byproduct of the disinfection process used to control harmful microbes.

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act gives GWA 45 days from receipt of the letter to consult with EPA on how it intends to address the 40 significant deficiencies. GWA must provide a detailed plan and schedule to address the deficiencies identified. This could include actions the utility can undertake quickly to fix the facilities, such as closing direct openings into wellheads and storage tanks; correcting chlorination/disinfection problems; fixing flooded valve vaults that could allow contamination to enter into the drinking water system; and repairing broken or poorly functioning equipment.

The plan should also identify specific actions to address longer-term deficiencies associated with maintenance and operational aspects of the system, and address the compliance deficiencies identified, to ensure the continuing and future safety of the water supply.

The inspection report also noted that regulated chemical contaminants chlordane, ethylene dibromide, perchloroethylene and trichloroethyelene have been found in GWA drinking water wells, but currently there are no drinking water quality violations for these contaminants. Dieldrin, a chemical not regulated by the SDWA, also was found in Guam’s water supply at levels well below what EPA considers an acute health threat.

A copy of letter and the inspection report will be provided to the U.S. District Court in Guam to keep the court informed, as they relate to EPA’s current enforcement action against GWA.

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