A report charging the drinking water supplied to many Americans has hazardous levels of bacteria or toxic chemicals may be misleading and doesn't apply to Utah.
"I'll let the feds speak for the feds, but in terms of the state, we've done a lot" to enforce water quality standards, said Ken Bousfield, manager of the compliance program in the Bureau of Drinking Water and Sanitation.The National Wildlife Federation researched government records and released a report Thursday that concludes safe water laws are underenforced, posing a major health threat to the nation.
Statistically, the report is fairly accurate and even understates the number of water quality violations recorded in Utah, Bousfield said. But the story behind the violations logged puts the statistics in perspective.
Some 51 percent of the state's 317 water systems serve highway rest stops, forest campgrounds and summer home subdivisions. Only 49 percent serve communities, and 75 percent of those serve populations of less than 500.
Most of approximately 526 violations issued in Utah between Oct. 1, 1986, and Sept. 30, 1987, to both communities and campgrounds were for monitoring failures. Many other violations were likely the result of a testing error. "They're not what I call hard-core violations," he said.
Some 98 water quality violations were issued to operators of community systems, and many of those violations could have been the result of a testing error.
Most of the small systems don't have a professional staff. "Those are operated by the guy who's the mayor or the city councilman over the water," Bousfield said. "On occasion he'll get a bad test result. Then he takes follow-up samples and the results are satisfactory. Probably a sampling error occurred."
But still the violation and bad sample stay on the books for anyone who wishes to count them.
In Utah, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state agreed there was one system, in Washington County, that was a significant non-complier, "And that's been dealt with," Bousfield said. "In terms of significance and in terms of enforcement, I feel we're very much on top of it."
In Washington, D.C., the EPA was also quick to respond to the environmental group's report, branding its results as misleading and overstated.