EPA launching new water infrastructure effort after Flint

EPA launching new water infrastructure effort after Flint
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Federal regulators plan to begin working with state and local officials on an assessment of drinking water infrastructure in the wake of the Flint, Mich. crisis.

The Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it will begin discussing— with state regulators, utilities and groups outside government — steps they can take to implement safe drinking water laws.

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The agency will focus on issues like state and federal oversight of drinking water and ways to help low-income communities disproportionately impacted by water problems. The effort will look at implementation of rules guiding lead and copper levels and how to regulate other chemicals that might be found in drinking water. 

White House officials will also conduct a study of the science and technology behind national drinking water regulations and issue recommendations for federal regulators.

In a blog post, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water Joe Beauvais said the agency hopes to complete its drinking water work by the end of the year. A host of issues — from climate change to Flint, where 100,000 people had their drink water contaminated by lead due to poor infrastructure — has made a survey of water regulations necessary, he wrote.

“We will work together with our partners and stakeholders to set a strategic agenda and identify and implement priority, near-term actions we can take in the coming months,” he wrote. “By the end of this year, we will release a summary of our progress and a national action plan for the future.”

The EPA has been criticized for its role in the Flint crisis, with officials and interest groups saying it should have done more to push Michigan regulators on the problems in the city, or at least publicize them better.

Lawmakers have introduced legislation pumping money into water infrastructure improvement around the country and pushing the EPA to change the way it alerts the public to drinking water problems.