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August 24, 1999

What's In Your Water?

Local Water Supplier Must Keep Customers Informed

OLYMPIA, WA  (SafetyAlerts) - Want to know what’s in your drinking water? Your local water supplier will be letting you know just that very soon. Under a new federal consumer information regulation, water utilities must inform their customers about the quality of their water, as well as other vital public health information.

Beginning this year, community water systems serving more than 25 people must provide their customers with annual "consumer confidence reports" detailing the quality of the drinking water they serve.

In particular, people who are vulnerable to illnesses, such as organ transplant recipients, HIV/AIDS patients, the very young, and the very old, need this information to make knowledgeable decisions about what water they should drink. Educated consumers are more likely to help protect their drinking water sources and understand the true costs of safe drinking water as well.

"Information is a powerful tool in protecting the public’s health," Selecky, said. "This new public-right-to-know rule is a giant step forward in consumer information and public understanding of drinking water. It requires drinking water suppliers to provide the same kind of information we’ve come to expect from the labels on our food."

"Does your water come from a lake, a river, or from under the ground? Have bacteria or chemicals been detected? The reports will tell customers where their water comes from, what’s in it, and how those substances might affect their health," Selecky said.

Washington State water suppliers are already beginning to issue these reports which are expected to reach 4.8 million customers of more than 2,000 community water systems.

Many water suppliers in Eastern Washington cities, including Pasco, Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Benton City and Prosser, are issuing their reports during the next few weeks. Department of Health representatives will join city officials in a press conference Tuesday, Aug. 31, 11 a.m., at the Pasco Water Treatment Plant, to answer questions about the reports.

Washington State Department of Health Secretary Mary Selecky urged consumers to use these reports to become better educated about their water.

"Public utility districts, like other water utilities, want to make sure customers know how their drinking water is obtained and treated. Customers have a right to this information, and well-informed customers can help utilities make good decisions about water supply and treatment," said John Kounts, Water Program Director of the Washington Public Utility District Association. "Because PUDs are owned and governed by our customers, we see consumer confidence reports as one more opportunity to communicate sound information to our customer-owners."

Requirements for these reports are the centerpiece of the right-to-know provisions in the 1996 amendments to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Nationwide, some 248 million people are expected to receive reports this year from 55,000 water systems.


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