A brief history of Safe Drinking Water in the USA

Its been a long time since our Water was pure. Starting in the 1760s in England, when manufacturing became mechanized. Water, steam, wood, and coal powered machines forever changed a number of industries, and suddenly small towns became large cities as people flocked to factories to find work.

iPhones, self-driving cars, and designer clothing wouldn’t exist if not for the Industrial Revolution; historians use it as a time stamp for the transition between the early modern and modern periods.

As wealth increased nearly across the board, the economic standard of living rose dramatically along with the average life expectancy.

But the Industrial Revolution came at a cost to water quality and overall health.

The first piece of legislation to lay down federal regulation of water quality, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, was passed by Congress in June, 1948. This act, known as the FWPCA , was ammended in 1956 to give the Federal government control over individual states’ consent where health is endangered, in 1965 The Water Quality Act set federal standards became the baseline for statewide water quality levels and in 1972 The Clean Water Act (CWA) which bestowed enforcement authority to the EPA and restructured water quality regulations, becoming the primary legislation governing water pollution in the country. 1)The Modern Environmental Movement – PBS.org

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), passed by Congress in 1974 to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply, is the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans’ drinking water.

Under SDWA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards.

In 1976 the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), our nation’s main chemical safety law was passed, 62,000 chemicals were already in use. All of these chemicals were grandfathered by TSCA; that means they were simply presumed to be safe and EPA was given no mandate to determine whether they are actually safe. Even to require testing of these chemicals under TSCA, EPA must first provide evidence that the chemical may pose a risk, a toxic Catch-22.

In 2005, the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 contained a provision that has come to be known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” it exempts gas drilling and extraction from requirements in the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program of the SDWA.

Since 1976, 22,000 additional chemicals have been introduced and manufacturers have provided little or no information to the EPA regarding their potential health or environmental impacts. These chemicals are found in toys and other children’s products, cleaning and personal care items, furniture, electronics, food and beverage containers, building materials, fabrics, and car interiors.


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