New EPA Handbook To Help In Understanding Total Coliform Rule Provisions Under SDWA

On July 26, EPA announced a new handbook that will help owners and operators of small drinking water systems, technical assistance providers, and state drinking water personnel to better understand the Total Coliform Rule provisions under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

It is well known that small non-community water systems labor under many constraints not faced by larger systems, EPA officials said. Financing limits, shortages of skilled personnel and physical isolation are among the most critical problems facing small utilities. These systems, in turn, are supported by outside water professionals: engineers, scientists, regulators, technical assistance providers and others. Each entity needs continued education and training that target its particular role in the reliable provision of safe drinking water at a reasonable cost and minimal burden.

EPA has developed this up-to-date reference handbook with the intent of enhancing system capacity for prolonged infrastructure sustainability. The Total Coliform Rule (TCR) is the federal regulation under the SDWA that sets maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) and monitoring requirements for certain biological contaminants. The rule requires every PWS to periodically collect samples and analyze them for bacteria called coliforms. The number of routine samples required each month, quarter, or year depends on the system size and source water.

The document, Total Coliform Rule: A Handbook for Small Noncommunity Water Systems serving less than 3,300 persons, and additional tools to help small water systems are available on EPA's Web site at

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