Feds tighten drinking-water rules

Water systems to check specifically for E. coli under new regulations

New regulations on the nation’s drinking water will expand testing for bacterial pathogens that make people sick.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s revised rules—which were introduced last month and will take effect within three years—will require 155,000 public water systems to check for E. coli, which can get into the water supply from runoff or sewage and cause gastroenteritis, urinary-tract infections and neonatal meningitis, according to Environmental Health News. Under the new guidelines, water agencies must notify customers immediately if any amount of E. coli is detected.

For the past 20 years, water systems have used total coliform as a water-quality indicator, which checks for the presence of fecal matter. However, the presence of total coliform does not necessarily mean there is a public-health threat.

“With our 20 years of data since the rule, we know that E. coli is the best indicator of safety in drinking water,” said Gary Burlingame, director of the Philadelphia Water Department’s Bureau of Laboratory Services.

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