EPA Notice Says Calif. Has Violated the Safe Drinking Water Act
The California Department of Public Health has violated the Safe Drinking Water Act by failing to spend $455 million in federal funding that was allocated to improve local drinking water systems, according to a noncompliance notice issued by the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, the Sacramento Bee reports.
DPH administers the federalÂ money through its Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.
The agency typically makes loans to cities, counties and other local agencies to improve drinking water treatment systems by removing harmful chemicals or making other improvements (Weiser, Sacramento Bee, 4/20).
Details of Noncompliance Notice
According to the notice, California has received more than $1.5 billion for its safe drinking water fund over the past 15 years but has failed to spend a large portion of the funding in a timely manner.
The notice says that the $455 million is the program's largest unspent sum among all U.S. states (Wozniacka, AP/Miami Herald, 4/19).
Jared Blumenfeld -- regional administrator for EPA -- said, "We certainly hear from [California] communities that they need the money and they are not being able to access it." He added, "The facts speak for themselves. They money is not going out the door as quickly as it should."
According to the notice, when the state does spend the federal funding, it often chooses projects that are not ready to be implemented. Blumenfeld said that if the state had "reprogrammed" the money "more effectively, there could be short-term projects that are ready now that could already be funded, as opposed to funding projects that are not ready to start" (Sacramento Bee, 4/20).
The notice also says that the state's drinking water fund lacks an adequate system for financial oversight and accountability, which has resulted in inaccurate calculations of revenue from ongoing loan repayments (AP/Miami Herald, 4/19).
The state has 60 days to submit a corrective action plan. The EPA could suspend payments under the program if the state does not submit a plan on time or if the plan is not acceptable.
In a letter responding to the EPA notice, Â Ron Chapman -- director of DPH -- wrote, "I acknowledge the seriousness of the notice and will take all steps necessary to address the compliance issues identified in the letter" (Sacramento Bee, 4/20).
Broadcast CoverageCapital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" on Friday reported on the noncompliance notice (Quinton, "KXJZ News," Capitol Public Radio, 4/19). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.