State regulators could start electronically sharing large volumes of water system compliance monitoring data with the US Environmental Protection Agency annually, under an agreement signed in October.
Currently, states are required to report drinking water compliance data every six years for USEPA's mandated review of the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations.
The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, on behalf of its members, signed an agreement with USEPA to voluntarily provide water sample analytical results and related drinking water data from the agencies' compliance monitoring and enforcement activities for water systems.
Chuck Job, director of infrastructure for USEPA's Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water, said other federal agencies have signed Trading Partner Agreements to obtain voluntary and regulatory data from state agencies. Because 51 drinking water primacy agencies, including 46 states, had already volunteered to provide the data, USEPA decided it was time to set up a TPA for drinking water data.
The TPA puts in writing such matters as how the data will be used, partner responsibilities, the elements of Safe Drinking Water Information System/State that are covered, security and ownership.
Data shared includes the following types of information:
- Iventory information associated with compliance monitoring;
- Compliance monitoring, violations and enforcement data in states' databases for electronic data verification (eDV) comparison; and
- Schedules of water system monitoring for eDV comparison
The expanded data sharing, which could begin in January 2009, gives USEPA better bases to calculate public health indicators and to develop state and national data quality estimates.
USEPA's computer application for eDV collection will be provided to the states to verify data before sending it to USEPA. Job said the speedier data verification will help primacy agencies spot missing reports or errors and flag potential violations more quickly and at a minimal cost. They can more readily compare their water system sample results to USEPA regulatory expectations and the Safe Drinking Water Information System/FED data.
"When the states saw the value of this tool, they wanted it," Job said. North Dakota asked for and got a beta version and used it to flag ways they could improve how they work with public water systems, he said. Job expects states will run the application on a regular basis ? "almost real time" ? to improve their data quality. Other benefits mentioned include giving the primacy agencies a more robust and representative data set for regulatory development and implementation.
USEPA will use the data to update the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water Web site on contaminant occurrence at water systems. Regarding data security, the TPA did note that no confidential business information will be transferred from the state to USEPA.
All SDWIS data is subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Another benefit to the states is the reduced burden of complying with ad hoc requests for compliance monitoring analytical sample results. Primacy agencies not using SDWIS may soon be able to participate as well, Job said, because USEPA is working on other tools that would translate their data."We're working to create a common and comprehensive data set," he said, with a goal of improving implementation steps and protection of public health.