Following up on the article “Don’t Drink the Water,” residents concerned by the quality of drinking water in our Marin City community may want to take a deeper dive into the current state of drinking water regulations under our federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The law, enacted in 1974, currently regulates just a small fraction of the contaminants we find in our environment. The challenge is to rapidly expand the list of pollutants for which the federal Environmental Protection Agency establishes Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs). In the absence of such action, members of our community are left unaware and unprotected.
Seeking a way forward through other federal environmental laws, an environmental public interest group for which I serve as co-counsel attempted an innovative strategy by employing the federal hazardous waste law to halt the delivery by the City of Vacaville of drinking water contaminated with hexavalent chromium (the toxic waste at the center of the movie Erin Brockovich). Hexavalent chromium is inexcusably not regulated under the federal drinking water law. Our federal courts struck down this effort, leaving residents in continued peril.
The goal in our community, and for too many others across the nation, is to heighten awareness of the everyday threat of drinking water that poses a danger to health and to press our federal and state governments to establish and impose drinking water standards that reflect the significant number of pollutants in our environment, ensuring every tap in every home delivers water that is safe and secure.