Violations & Enforcement
Types of Violations
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL)
Under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA sets national limits on contaminant levels in drinking water to ensure that the water is safe for human consumption. These limits are known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs). If the results of any required water test exceed the MCL for that contaminant, your public water system will be issued a MCL Violation and will be required to conduct a Public Notification. Your Compliance Officer will provide you with the Public Notification paperwork and specific requirements you must perform to resolve the violation.
A Public Water System (PWS) is required to monitor and verify that the levels of contaminants present in the water do not exceed the MCL. If a PWS fails to have its water tested as required or fails to report test results correctly to the Drinking Water Program, a monitoring violation is issued. Your Compliance Officer will provide you with the Public Notification paperwork and specific requirements you must perform to resolve the violation.
For some regulations, the EPA establishes treatment techniques (TTs) in lieu of an MCL to control unacceptable levels of certain contaminants. For example, treatment techniques have been established for viruses, bacteria, and turbidity under the Surface Water Treatment Rule (SWTR). In some cases, such as the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), once an exceedance has occurred, the PWS is required to conduct public education. Failure to do so results in a treatment technique violation.
When a public water system violates federal or state drinking water regulations, the Drinking Water Program is authorized to impose a number of administrative remedies which are defined at 22 M.R.S. § 2619. To maintain its status as a primacy agency for EPA, the Drinking Water Program is obligated to employ these remedies in a timely manner, to facilitate the public water system's return to compliance.
The Enforcement process is outlined in the following steps:
|Notice of Non-Compliance (NON):
Issued when a violation is committed by a public water system. NONs identify the violation, set a deadline for compliance, and state the possible consequences, if the requirements are not met before the deadline.
|Administrative Consent Order:
If the public water system does not meet all requirements before a deadline set in one or more NON's, the Drinking Water Program is authorized to move to the second step: an offer to negotiate a settlement with the water system through an administrative consent order. With this step, the Drinking Water Program proposes terms for returning the public water system to compliance. The water system must accept this offer to negotiate a settlement with the Drinking Water Program within 10 days of receiving the Consent Order. This Consent Order must be approved and signed within 30 or 60 days (depending on the type of water system) by both parties to be effective and binding. This Consent Order contains requirements and schedules for the water system to follow, in order to return to compliance with drinking water regulations.
|Administrative Compliance Order with Penalty Assessment:
If the water system fails to meet the terms of a finalized administrative consent order, or if the Drinking Water Program and water system fail to agree on terms of a Consent Order within the negotiation period, then the Drinking Water Program issues an administrative compliance order with a penalty assessment. This order and penalty assessment is unilateral, effective and binding, as soon as the water system receives it. The water system must pay the penalty within 30 days of receipt. The water system may appeal the order, or penalty, or both, within 30 days, by submitting a written request for a hearing. This Administrative Compliance Order may be issued immediately, if the Drinking Water Program finds an imminent hazard to public health.
Enforcement Targeting Tool
Every quarter, the Maine Drinking Water Program (DWP) receives a report from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listing public water systems (PWS) in Maine. This report, called the Enforcement Targeting Tool (ETT), uses a scoring system to prioritize those PWSs in violation of safe drinking water rules and regulations, by using a scoring system. The purpose of the ETT is to target those PWSs in need of formal enforcement action, in order to facilitate their return to compliance.
- What Exactly Does Formal Enforcement Mean?
- How is the ETT Scored?
- What Score Raises a Red Flag?
- How Accurate is this ETT?
- Is My PWS on the ETT?
Contact Sara Flanagan if you have any questions related to the Enforcement Targeting Tool.