EPA has delegated enforcement of drinking water standards to most States. EPA depends on the reported data to monitor the effectiveness of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) program. To assess the accuracy of the data reported, EPA asked GAO to audit the reports.
Using data from the 14 States EPA audited in 2009, GAO estimates that those 14 States did not report or inaccurately reported 26% of the health-based violations that should have been reported and 84% of the monitoring violations that should have been reported. GAO's findings were consistent with the results of prior EPA audits. In addition, according to EPA headquarter and regional officials that GAO interviewed and/or surveyed, State-reported data underreported the percentage of water systems with violations against which the States have taken enforcement actions. Survey respondents and other officials reported that numerous factors contribute to errors in reported data on violations and enforcement, including inadequate training, staffing, and guidance, and inadequate funding to conduct those activities.
A summary of the report and the GAO recommendations can be found at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-381. The full report can be found at Drinking Water – Unreliable State Data Limit EPA's Ability to Target Enforcement Priorities and Communicate Water Systems' Performance.
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