GAO: Dirty drinking water often goes unreported

Contaminations in drinking water often are not reported to the federal government, making it harder to reduce the health risks posed by dirty water, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Incomplete reporting undermines the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to track contamination and target its enforcement activities toward the water systems with the biggest problems, GAO said.

The top three Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said the report shows the danger of cutting EPA funding. They said Republicans have proposed a $134 million cut to a fund that helps states comply with EPA regulations.

“Rather than slashing funding for this critical public health resource, Congress should be moving legislation to improve the reporting and policing of drinking water violations," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

After auditing 14 states, GAO found that 26 percent of health-related violations in drinking-water systems were either not reported to the EPA or were reported inaccurately in 2009.

Contaminated drinking water causes as many as 11 million illnesses per year in the U.S., according to a study cited in the GAO report.