Kentucky an Example for Water Quality as “Water Week” gets Underway in Washington

Kentucky_DamDuring the week of April 10 – 16, 2016, water sector organizations and professionals will gather in the nation’s capital to celebrate “Water Week.”

Water, wastewater, and stormwater professionals from communities across the country will come together in Washington, D.C. to consider and advocate for national policies that advance clean and safe waters – to ensure a healthy and sustainable environment.

In Kentucky, the Department for Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Division of Water (DOW) is highlighting some of the valuable work being done at the state and local levels by organizations that strive daily to make sure Kentucky’s water resources are protected, improved upon and are ultimately sustainable, so that all citizens may enjoy Kentucky’s abundant natural water resources, and expect high quality drinking water.

In conjunction with national Water Week, the DEP would like to highlight the success of Kentucky’s drinking water systems and the DOW’s drinking water program have had in providing safe, potable water to nearly all Kentuckians.

There are 409 community public water systems (PWS) that draw from hundreds of streams, rivers, lakes and aquifers in the Commonwealth.  These public water systems provide reliable, high-quality drinking water to more than 95 percent of the residents of the Commonwealth. Most PWS are small systems; more than half of the public water systems in Kentucky serve fewer than 3,300 customers.

All PWS face significant challenges, especially in regard to making high-quality, reliable drinking water affordable to their communities while maintaining and operating effectively an extensive, aging, infrastructure, commonly in challenging terrain.

But despite the challenges presented by customer expectations, compliance with new rules and aging infrastructure, Kentucky’s public water systems continue to provide safe, reliable drinking water.

“Kentucky has unique, abundant natural water resources, and our goal every day is to protect those sources, effectively treat the water and deliver it in the most efficient manner possible,” said Peter Goodmann, Director of the Division of Water.

The Federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requires Kentucky’s public water systems to regularly test produced water for more than 100 contaminants such as bacteria, nitrates and other chemicals. Data from Kentucky’s  409 community public water systems in 2014 demonstrates consistent production of excellent quality water and very high rates of compliance with the SDWA requirements. These data show that most violations of the federal Safe Water Act were administrative in nature and most involved monitoring and reporting issues. Of more than 82,000 sample results submitted to DOW in 2014, only 115 exceeded health-based standards.

Lead in drinking water has been a hot topic since Flint, Michigan’s serious lead contamination problem came to light in the last year. A primary mission of the Kentucky DOW is to ensure that safe and reliable drinking water is delivered to the citizens and businesses of the Commonwealth. As a part of that mission, the DOW reviews and takes action on data reported by public water systems on a regular and routine basis. Water quality data submitted to DOW from Kentucky’s water supplies indicate that lead levels in Kentucky’s drinking water are consistently within ranges to be considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Lead is a serious health hazard, and a problem that the Division of Water is closely monitoring,” Goodmann said. “While our data appear strong, we want to remain vigilant to make sure that problems that have plagued other states do not affect Kentuckians.”

While Kentucky faces many challenges to provide safe, clean drinking water, the overall story appears, as “Water Week” gets underway, that Kentuckians have access to excellent and reliable drinking water, and potable water is available to the vast majority of households in the state.

The KYDEP and Kentucky’s public water systems strive every day to continue that success, and ensure we are being vigilant when it comes to providing reliable safe drinking water to all becoming an issue in our public  water systems.