On Tuesday, May 2, the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) released a report listing Georgia in the top 10 states with violations to drinking water systems. Some points to consider when responding to concerned customers on this topic include:
- While Georgia has a lot of procedural violations, it is not on the list for most health-based violations. Procedural violations address paperwork and deadline issues, as opposed to health issues like lead in the water. Georgia is the 8th most populated state in the nation—if you calculate number of violations based on the size of the population service, we come in on the low end of the list.
"When they transition to discussing the most number of health-based violations, we're not on that list. I think that says something positive about the drinking water that we have in our state." --James Capp chief of the Watershed Protection Branch of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division
- The report mentions that monetary penalties are not assessed in most cases where the violation is not health based. Monetary penalties for late sampling/reporting are likely not appropriate in most cases, particularly for smaller communities. The final goal is compliance and communities get back into compliance by submitting the sample/report.
- The report discusses that a significant percentage of violations are not returned to compliance quickly; this is misleading because most systems will not be reported in the data system as being back in compliance until after they have gone through a complete compliance cycle, which for many rules could be 6 months to a year.
- The report mentions an honor system for reporting sample results, which does not apply in Georgia. Approximately 97% of public water systems send their samples directly to EPD’s lab for testing, so EPD will immediately know if there is a compliance issue. For the small percentage of systems that use private labs, most of those sample results are sent directly to EPD from the lab, not through the water system.
- For health-based violations, EPD is able to get systems back into compliance in a timely fashion in almost all cases.
"If we find a problem, we're going to fix it and the excuse of whether it was a small system or a big system really is not relevant at that point. I mean, everybody deserves clean water." --James Capp, Chief of the Watershed Protection Branch of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division