Total Coliform Rule Committee Signs on to Revisions


Members of the Total Coliform Rule/Distribution System Advisory Committee recently signed an agreement in principle (AIP) that recommends revisions to the 1989 Total Coliform Rule (TCR), as well as research and information collection needed to better understand potential public health impacts from conditions in the distribution system and control microbial drinking water contamination, according to a Sept. 25 press release.

??"This is a roadmap for strengthening safeguards against harmful bacteria in distribution lines and ensuring America's water remains among the safest in the world," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for water.

??The revisions will require systems with positive total coliform E. coli-monitoring results to assess whether a sanitary defect is present and to correct defects found. The recommendations provide a more proactive approach to identifying and reducing problems that could lead to drinking water contamination.

??The 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review each National Primary Drinking Water Regulation at least once every six years and revise them, if appropriate.

The agency established the advisory committee in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act with the specific charge of making recommendations and developing an AIP. After 13 public meetings spanning from July 2007 to September 2008, committee members carefully examined the areas of the 1989 rule that they believed should be revised based on knowledge of scientific information, which included post-TCR implementation monitoring data and public health information.

?To get a copy of the agreement in principle, visit ?

The American Water Works Association on Sept. 26 applauded the signing of the TCR agreement. The association was a member of the advisory committee.

"It's hard to overstate the importance of this rule, which affects virtually every water system in America," said Tom Curtis, AWWA deputy executive director of Government Affairs. "By and large, the AIP puts the emphasis where it should be ? on public health. So it makes the rule both better for utilities and more effective for the public. I'm proud that AWWA and others in the water community played such a key role in getting this done right."

AWWA provided technical detail and extensive data review in the committee.

The agreement responded to two charges from EPA:

• to improve TCR implementation while improving public health protection and distribution system water quality; and

• to determine the best research, data collection, and risk management strategies to identify and address contaminant occurrences and any public health risks.

The 1989 revision of the TCR set health goals and legal limits for the presence of total coliforms, fecal coliforms, and E. coli in drinking water. Significant improvements were made during the latest process, including creating new treatment techniques, assessment triggers, response actions, and violations, and revising the type and frequency of testing water systems must undertake. The Revised TCR will apply to all public water systems.

If the rulemaking process occurs on a normal timeline, EPA will propose the revised rule in 2010. It will be finalized in 2012 and compliance will be required in 2015. The AIP and the proposed rule revision will be posted in the Federal Register, and also will be available on AWWA's Web site,

AWWA will host a Web cast to discuss the proposed revision and potential impacts on Oct. 15. For information, visit

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