In the Pipeline

EPA Publishes New Drinking Water Testing Rule
A procedure for testing the microbial contaminant aeromonas in drinking water has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Aeromonas is a species of bacterium that is present in all freshwater environments. Some strains of aeromonas are capable of causing illness in humans who may acquire infections through open wounds or by ingestion of a sufficient number of the organisms in food or water.


The rule, published in the Oct. 29, 2002, Federal Register, affects 120 large and 180 small public water systems randomly selected by the agency to monitor for aeromonas under the current Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. The monitoring will be conducted from Jan. 1, 2003, to Dec. 3, 2003.

The rule requires laboratories wishing to analyze samples for aeromonas under the UCMR to use EPA Method 1605. A minimum reporting level of 0.2 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters for aeromonas is set under the rule.

Laboratories wishing to be approved to use Method 1605 for this monitoring should submit a "request to participate" letter to EPA and will be asked to analyze 10 samples for aeromonas using Method 1605.

The Safe Drinking Water Act section 1445(a)(2), as amended in 1996, requires EPA to establish criteria for a program to monitor unregulated contaminants and to publish a list of contaminants to be monitored. To meet these requirements, EPA published the Revisions to the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Regulation for Public Water Systems in September 1999, which substantially revised the previous Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Program (UCMR). The September 1999 UCMR requires monitoring for three lists of contaminants. EPA subsequently published supplements to the September 1999 rule on Jan. 11, 2001, which specified the requirements for aeromonas monitoring in the UCMR. However, an analytical method for the analysis of aeromonas was not approved as part of that final rule. The latest rule amends the UCMR to specify a method and an associated minimum reporting level for monitoring aeromonas.

Data gathered from the monitoring will be used to determine whether the substance should be placed on EPA's Contaminant Candidate List.

The rule can be accessed at www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-WATER/2002/October/Day-29/w27133.htm. A list of both the large and small systems selected to perform aeromonas monitoring is available at www.epa.gov/safewater/standard/ucmr/systems.html.

EPA Revises Test Method for Measuring Mercury
EPA has also issued final rule that revises a test method for measuring low concentrations of mercury in water samples. All organic compounds of mercury are highly toxic to humans by ingestion, inhalation and absorption. Most organic compounds of mercury are also highly toxic to humans.

The rule, published in the Oct. 29, 2002, Federal Register, approves EPA Method 1631, Revision E: Mercury in Water by Oxidation, Purge and Trap and Cold Vapor Atomic Fluorescence Spectrometry (Method 1631E). EPA Method 1631E clarifies quality control and sample handling requirements and allows flexibility to incorporate additional available technologies. This rule also amends the requirements regarding preservation, storage and holding time for low-level mercury samples.

In 1999, the agency published a final rule for an earlier version of Method 1631. The rule was challenged by industry groups, which contended that water samples could become contaminated during sampling under the method. A settlement with the groups (Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers vs. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 99-1420, October 19, 2000) addresses revisions to EPA Method 1631, which were proposed in 2001.

The proposed revisions would have converted certain recommendations and guidance in the method (specifically, certain clean techniques and quality control provisions) into requirements. Commenters argued that the intention of Method 1631 was to be performance-based -- that the method used should be accorded flexibility to improve method performance.

Agency officials stated that following review of comments, EPA believes that requiring the additional proposed requirements for clean techniques or quality control provisions would result in an unnecessary economic burden and would limit future use of the method.

The final rule, which became effective Nov. 23, 2002, can be accessed at www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-WATER/2002/October/Day-29/w27136.htm.

USGS Launches Web Site for Nation's Water Data
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently unveiled its new, online WaterWatch Web site, which gives visitors an instantaneous picture of water conditions nationwide in near real-time. Through the use of USGS WaterWatch maps, the entire nation's current streamflow conditions are depicted on maps with color-coded dots that represent conditions at about 3,000 streamgages. The WaterWatch Web site is available at http://water.usgs.gov/waterwatch.

WaterWatch allows users to retrieve maps and graphs of real-time stage and discharge data for individual stations. From the national map, users can click on a state to find state data and click further to find near real-time data at an individual gauge. This feature facilitates rapid assessment of both general and specific water-resources conditions.

WaterWatch also serves as a geospatial front end to NWIS-Web, the USGS online National Water Information System that provides access via home or office computer to real-time and historical surface-water, groundwater and water-quality data. Access to data (including real-time streamflow and historical flood peaks) via NWIS-Web can be obtained at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis. To provide users with a broad perspective on short-term and long-term streamflow conditions and variations, WaterWatch maps and graphs are organized into three distinct categories: real-time, daily and seven-day average streamflow.

EPA Presents Research Strategy to Monitor and Assess Waters
EPA has announced a national Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program research strategy to provide a comprehensive picture of the state of major U.S. streams and estuaries.

Presently, states, tribes and regions collect water data primarily from specific point sources, which are not representative of the entire aquatic ecosystem. The expanded research program will use new data collection techniques to better define actual overall water quality conditions and improve the scope and accuracy of watershed assessments.

The strategy will result in a statistical monitoring framework that can be used to determine and detect trends in conditions for all the nation's waterways. The strategy is available at www.epa.gov/ORD/resplans or EMAP's Web site at www.epa.gov/emap.

EPA Approves 20th Edition of Water and Wastewater Testing Guidebook
EPA has approved the 20th edition of "Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater," a comprehensive guide for the testing of water and wastewater created through a joint effort of the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the American Public Health Association (APHA).

Since 1905, "Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater" has served as the industry guide for water quality testing of a wide variety of contaminants, including arsenic, biochemical oxygen demand and organic compounds. The guide provided more than 350 separate methods of water quality measurements used by water and wastewater industry scientists, analysts and engineers nationwide.

"The EPA approval of the latest edition of this important water quality resource underlines its importance and credibility to industry experts," said Jack Hoffbuhr, executive director of AWWA. "The guide provides the most comprehensive collection of water analysis techniques in the world, and will undoubtedly go a long way in helping utilities provide a higher level of service to consumers with the interest of public health the utmost priority."

You can order "Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater" online from AWWA, APHA and WEF bookstores at www.awwa.org, www.apha.org/media or www.wef.org; or by calling the organizations at (800) 926-7337 (AWWA), (301) 893-1894 (APHA) or (800) 666-0206 (WEF).

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2003 issue of Environmental Protection.

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