A Contrarian View of US Drinking Water Regulations

Andy Eaton, Eurofins Eaton Analytical, Inc., CA, USA (andyeaton@eurofinsus.com)

Analytical monitoring under the United States Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is constrained in a number of ways.    The list of regulated analytes is enshrined directly in the regulations, as are the methods, the required reporting limits and monitoring frequencies.  More importantly for analytical chemists, the method requirements are very specific and have in general limited (or no) room for flexibility to take advantage of improvements in instrumentation and analytical procedures.  While this has been a complaint of analytical labs in the US for years, and USEPA has to a limited extent attempted to respond by developing or improving new methods for existing regulated analytes, it is still a cumbersome process.   Additionally, even when a substance is not regulated in drinking water in the US, if there is an EPA method, it becomes the defacto “gold standard” for methods, even though most EPA methods are developed and published as much as 5 years prior to any use.    Focusing on EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule process, this presentation will discuss the current approach and use examples of perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) and algal toxins as some examples where the constraints of the SDWA have either resulted in unnecessary use of resources or resulted in data of limited usefulness for proactive decision making and present some alternative suggestions and discuss ways where USEPA is responding to improvements in technology.

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