Regulatory Puzzle


The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulates the quality of drinking water.  Usually, state or local agencies are involved in SDWA implementation.

The  SDWA might affect chemical companies through 3 main provisions:

  1. Regulations on providing public drinking water (e.g., within the facility)
  2. Standards for underground injection wells
  3. Standards for Superfund remediation

1. Public water systems

Law: SDWA Section 1412
Regulation: 40 CFR 141

If your plant provides its own drinking water and the service is over a certain size (serving at least 25 individuals at least 60 days annually), you will have to follow a number of requirements to insure drinking water quality.  These include:

  • treating the water to meet "maximum contaminant level" (MCL) standards for various contaminants
  • performing testing, recordkeeping (up to 10 years), and reporting to the state (or other appropriate authority)
  • notifying authorities within 48 hours of any failure to meeting primary drinking water regulations

2.  Underground Injection Wells

Law: SDWA Section 1421
Regulation: 40 CFR 144; additional state level requirements

The Underground Injection Control Program, part of the SDWA, is designed to insure that any underground injection does not threaten the quality of groundwater.   The UIC program is usually administered by the state, and requires a permit to "place" fluids into a bored, drilled, driven, or dug well (excluding surface lagoons).

The UIC program works in coordination the RCRA Hazardous Waste disposal program, since most underground injection involves hazardous waste.  The UIC permit substitutes for a RCRA disposal permit in this case.

In addition to getting a permit, you will also have to perform monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting.  There are also restrictions on the types of wastes that can be injected (e.g., certain hazardous wastes have been "land banned"), and on the location of wells (e.g., to protect certain aquifers).

3. Superfund Remediation

Law: CERCLA Section 121(d)
Regs: 40 CFR Subchapter J

If you are involved in a Superfund remediation (or RCRA corrective action), you may start hearing about SDWA "maximum contaminant level" (MCL) standards.   This is because the SDWA standards are often used as cleanup targets.  For example, if you are remediating groundwater, you may be required to treat it until it meets the SDWA MCLs.  This may be the case even if the groundwater is not directly being used for drinking water.


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