Senate Balks at Limiting Drinking Water Reports

August 8, 2012

A bid to drop the legal requirement that drinking water utilities mail annual reports on any contaminants in water delivered to customers fell short in the Senate June 21, 2012.

The annual "Consumer Confidence Reports," required by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), have been a fixture since 1999. Public water systems above a certain size must annually mail customers a report on the sources of their water, any contaminants detected, the health effects of any contaminants in violation of EPA standards, and utility efforts to reduce contamination.

An amendment, by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), would have allowed utilities to deliver the CCRs to their customers online, rather than via US Postal Service. Some utilities had favored this as a cost-saving measure. But some consumer groups opposed it, saying customers were more likely to see the reports if included in the water bills they receive by mail.

Toomey had introduced the measure as a stand-alone bill (S 1578), but offered it as an amendment to the Farm Bill during Senate floor consideration. The Senate rejected it in a 58-41 vote, under an agreement that required non-germane amendments to win 60 votes to pass. Backers said they will continue to push the stand-alone bill, but that may have little chance of passing in the remainder of this Congress as election season approaches.