Students Celebrate 30th Anniversary of Safe Drinking Water Act

Students at St. Denis Elementary School, Montgomery County, helped the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency celebrate the 30th anniversary of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

This anniversary is an opportunity for Americans to celebrate 30 years of safe drinking water. Most Americans take healthy drinking water for granted. Yet, there are many threats to drinking water supply including: improperly disposed of chemicals; animal wastes; pesticides; human wastes; and even naturally occurring substances.

The Safe Drinking Water Act originally focused primarily on treatment as a means of providing safe drinking water at the tap. Greater efforts are now underway to improve water quality at its source - rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water.

To protect water sources, local emergency responders include water safety in their planning. Townships throughout the region are working to reduce non-point source run-off that can carry sediment and pollutants into our rivers and streams. Citizen watershed organizations organize stream clean-ups and help to restore stream banks by adding plants that will reduce flooding and support healthier streams. We have a multi-state program to monitor the Delaware Estuary and there is a river keeper whose daily work is to look out for the Delaware River.

One of the drinking water sources where EPA has placed a renewed focus is the Schuylkill River watershed. In the spring of 2003, a new program began to improve water resources and drinking water quality. It’s called the Schuylkill Action Network. The Schuylkill River watershed covers parts of 11 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania.

The network is focusing on four key problems the Schuylkill and many other watersheds face: threats from agricultural run-off, storm water run-off, acid mine drainage, and pathogen releases. This effort is significant because watershed has 58 separate locations along that river that take in water for community drinking water.

The network has many partners including EPA, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Philadelphia Water Department, the Delaware River Basin Commission, conservation districts, locally elected officials, and citizen watershed organizations.

Most people, if they think about it, know where their water comes from. If you are not sure, check out the consumer confidence report from your water supplier, which is posted on their website. Also, most drinking water systems link this information to EPA’s website.

Test yourself with these questions:
1. What are the sources of drinking water for center city Philadelphia?
2. What are some the characteristics of the Schuylkill River watershed?
3. How many drinking water intakes are on the Schuylkill River?
4. What are some of the major pollutants in the Schuylkill watershed?

Looking out for our watersheds and working together we can ensure that the Safe Drinking Water Act will be celebrating a successful legacy of clean, healthy water today and in future generations.

Here are the answers:

1. The Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers.

2. It is 130 miles long. The watershed includes 2,000 square miles of area and is home to the approximately three million people in Pennsylvania, and is currently: 47 percent forest, 36 percent agricultural, and 13 percent developed.

3. Fifty-eight surface water intakes

4. Pathogens, such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium, are contained in sewage, livestock and wildlife wastes; nutrients from sewage, agriculture, lawncare, and golf courses; metals created by acid mine drainage; chloride and sodium from highways and road salt; MtBE (a gasoline additive) leaked from underground storage tanks and watercraft; and natural elements in the river such as bromide that can chemically react with other elements to create potentially cancer-causing compounds.


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