EPA Releases Drinking Water Risk Assessment Requirements

Water_Pitcher(March 26, 2019) – The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a pre-publication version of its requirements for the new risk assessment and emergency response plans required of drinking water utilities in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which was signed by President Trump last year. The Act revised a 2002 Safe Drinking Water Act amendment, which required one-time vulnerability assessments for drinking water utilities. 

There are currently no requirements for wastewater utilities to complete a risk assessment or emergency response plan, and wastewater utilities are not impacted by these proposed requirements. 

Under the new legislation, drinking water utilities serving more than 3,300 people must conduct a new assessment of risk and resilience related to natural hazards and malevolent acts; all physical and electronic systems; financial infrastructure; the use and handling of chemicals; and the operation and maintenance of the system.

Drinking water utilities must also prepare an emergency response plan based on the risk assessment.  The plan should include strategies and resources to improve both physical and cyber-security resilience, procedures for recovering from natural hazards and malevolent acts, and strategies for detecting problems that threaten the security or resilience of the system.

Utilities must certify to EPA that they have completed the risk assessment and emergency response plan, but the assessment and plan do not need to be submitted to the Agency.  The certification deadline depends on utility size, with the first deadline being March 31, 2020 for utilities serving a population of 100,000 or more.  Emergency response plans are due six months after completion of the risk assessment.  There are no penalties for missing the deadlines, but EPA will be working with the states to achieve full compliance.

EPA is developing a comprehensive training schedule and tools, resources, and procedures that drinking water utilities may use to comply with the risk assessment and emergency response plan requirements. 

Please contact Cynthia Finley, NACWA Director, Regulatory Affairs, with any questions.