|Overview of the Federal Public Water System Supervision (PWSS) Program
The EPA established the Public Water System Supervision (PWSS) Program under the authority of the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Under the SDWA and the 1986 Amendments, EPA sets national limits on contaminants in drinking water to ensure that it is safe for human consumption, referred to as, Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and Maximum Residual Disinfectant Levels (MRDLs). For some regulations, the EPA requires treatment techniques (TTs) to control unacceptable levels of certain contaminants, such as nitrates and/or bacteria, and/or to address issues that impact water aesthetics, such as color, taste, or odor.
EPA also regulates how often a PWS is required to monitor and report levels of contaminants to the state primacy agency and to their agency. Generally, the larger the population served by a PWS, the more frequent the monitoring and reporting requirements. In addition, EPA requires some PWSs to monitor for unregulated contaminants to provide data for future regulatory Nebraska’s 2020 Annual Summary Report 6 development. Finally, EPA requires PWSs to notify their consumers when they have violated the regulations of the SDWA. The 1996 Amendments to the SDWA require consumer notification to include a clear and understandable explanation of the violation, its potential adverse health effects, steps that the PWS is undertaking to correct the violation, and the possibility of using alternative water supplies during the violation.
The federal SDWA applies to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Indian Lands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The SDWA allows states and territories to seek EPA approval to administer their own PWSS program(s). The authority to run a PWSS program is called primacy. For a state to receive primacy, EPA must determine that the state meets certain requirements laid out in the SDWA and the federal regulations, including the adoption of drinking water regulations that are at least as stringent as the federal regulations and a demonstration that they can enforce the program requirements. Of the 56 states and territories, all but Wyoming and the District of Columbia have primacy. The EPA regional offices administer the PWSS programs within these two jurisdictions.
The 1986 SDWA Amendments gave Indian tribes the right to apply for and receive primacy. EPA currently administers PWSS programs on all Indian lands except the Navajo Nation, which was granted primacy in late 2000.
Annual State Public Water System Report
The mission of the Drinking Water Division is to protect the public health and welfare of Nebraskans by assuring safe, adequate, and reliable drinking water. People expect their water will be safe to drink when they turn on their faucet, program staff across the State work in many areas to assure this.
On July 18, 2017 the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (now the Nebraska Department of Environment & Energy (NDEE)), entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), with the purpose of enhancing the protection of public health and the environment through improved customer service, and increased efficiency. The DHHS Drinking Water Division staff continue to administer the PWSS program under the supervision of NDEE. Legislation was proposed in 2021 and adopted by the State Legislature to merge the DHHS Drinking Water Program with NDEE. This will be effective July 1, 2021.
Each quarter, primacy states submit data to the EPA using the federal Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS/FED) database. The data submitted includes, but is not limited to, public water system (PWS) inventory information; the incidence of MCL, MRDL, monitoring, and TT violations and other information on enforcement activity related to these violations. In addition, section 1414(c)(3) of the federal SDWA requires states to provide EPA with an annual report of violations of the primary drinking water standards. This report provides the numbers of violations in each of six categories: MCLs, MRDLs, TTs, variances and exemptions, significant monitoring violations, and significant consumer notification violations. The following report is a summary of the compliance of Nebraska’s PWSs with the SDWA as required by the 1996 Amendments to this federal act. Other significant program activities that Nebraska’s 2020 Annual Summary Report 7 the program staff perform in assuring water is safe for human consumption are also included in this report.