A recent EPA Office of Inspector General (IG) report criticizes the agency’s efforts at monitoring emergency drinking water facilities. According to the report, states rely on such facilities to self-report, but EPA does not require states to provide detailed information to its Safe Drinking Water Information System database.  

The report also finds that (i) EPA does not know the total number of contaminated emergency facilities and the scope of their use; (ii) 11 of 17 state drinking water programs reviewed do not monitor their emergency facilities; (iii) no federal framework defines an emergency facility nor is there consistency among states on how facilities are designated as “emergency”; (iv) states rely on water systems to self-report, but the system is voluntary without a method to ensure verification; and (v) EPA has no means of detecting instances where water systems provide false information to the states, and the agency has limited penalty assessment authority.

The report recommends that EPA (i) develop standard definitions for five facility availability codes—permanent, seasonal, emergency, interior, and other; (ii) develop standard operating procedures that follow EPA reporting requirements to assist the states with entering data into the agency’s database; (iii) review the additional information included in state water databases and, if appropriate, add fields to the EPA database to improve the oversight of emergency facilities; and (iv) assess the risk associated with the unauthorized use of emergency facilities and, if necessary, develop controls to mitigate that risk.