March 04, 2010

Crapo, Risch Seek Help For Water Systems

Legislation stops unfunded mandates for drinking water

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are co-sponsoring legislation that would ensure that smaller water systems have the resources necessary to deliver safe drinking water to consumers and comply with federal regulations. The Small System Drinking Water Act, S. 3038, is especially needed in smaller, less-populated states such as Idaho, the Senators said.

Crapo, the Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Wildlife and Water, joined Risch, EPW Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), and Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) in introducing the bill. The legislation would modify the Safe Drinking Water Act to make sure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works closely with smaller water systems and provides the resources and assistance necessary to deliver safe drinking water. The legislation would stop the enforcement of federal regulations unless sufficient funding and resources were in place to comply with those regulations.

"This bill provides safe drinking water as it stops unfunded federal mandates," said Crapo. "Federal regulatory agencies should be true partners in developing smaller safe drinking water systems. This bill not only provides for funding mechanisms; it also establishes working relationships from the federal level to the municipal and property owner level."

"At a time when communities are struggling to keep jobs and meet other onerous federal mandates, it is important that the EPA partner with communities rather than dictate to them. I believe this legislation is a reasonable approach that will encourage cooperation, protect our drinking water and set up a working group process for small communities," said Risch.

The Small System Drinking Water Act ensures that before the EPA can initiate enforcement actions, it must ensure that states or water system administrators have the funding needed to comply with federal requirements. It provides exemptions for systems serving fewer than 10,000 customers if administrators of those systems need financial assistance and are taking all practical steps to comply with regulations. The EPA would also be required to assist by forming working groups and model guidance documents for smaller water systems. Water systems serving Indian Tribes are also specifically included under the legislation, which awaits consideration before the Senate EPW Committee.