Dr. Grevatt is the Director of the U.S. EPA Office of Ground
Water and Drinking Water (OGWDW). He is responsible for
the development and implementation of national drinking
water standards, oversight and funding of state drinking
water programs, and the implementation of source water
protection and underground injection control programs to
protect public health nationwide. Prior to joining the OGWDW
in October of 2012, Dr. Grevatt served as the Director of the
Office of Children’s Health Protection and as the Senior Advisor
to EPA’s Administrator for Children’s Environmental Health.
Water Research Foundation: What were some of the
concerns with the water supply before the Safe
Drinking Water Act?
Peter Grevatt: President Ford signed the Safe Drinking
Water Act on December 16, 1974, in the wake of newspaper
headlines, television documentaries, and magazine features
warning that our old assumptions about the quality of our
drinking water may no longer be valid. Potential cancer-causing chemicals had been found in trace quantities in New
Orleans’ and Pittsburgh’s drinking water. In Boston, lead from
water supply pipes had been found in water drawn from
the tap. Viral or bacteriological contamination of drinking
water resulted in communication of disease, often in smaller
communities where treatment works were outdated or the
community could not afford to install. In other cities and
towns, foul odors and tastes made the water unpalatable.
Today, the EPA works closely with state co-regulators, water
sector professionals, and academia to identify emerging
challenges and develop practices to address these issues.
What are the biggest changes in the way the EPA
helps to protect the water supply pre-SDWA and
Before SDWA, the Agency lacked the authority, science, and
funding to safely and effectively protect our nation’s drinking
water. In 1962, there were approximately 28 regulated contami-
nants and approximately 40% of the water treatment plants
in operation at the time delivered water that did not meet
these standards. In addition, over 50% of the water treatment
plants had major deficiencies,
including disinfection, clarification,
or maintaining adequate pres-
sure in the distribution system.
Today, EPA regulates more
than 90 contaminants. Every
day, approximately 290M
people depend on the water
that is provided by 50,000 community water systems. SDWA
improved public health protection from bacteria, arsenic, lead,
disinfectants, and disinfection
by-products. Since 1997, the
Drinking Water State Revolving Fund has invested $25.8B
in our nation’s drinking water infrastructure. These infrastructure projects ranged from planning, design, and construction of water treatment plants and storage facilities to
laying pipes for transmission and distribution of water.
How would you sum up the effect of the SDWA on
The Safe Drinking Water Act put into motion a new national
program to reclaim and ensure the purity of the water we
consume. Under the Act, each level of government, every
public water system, and the individual consumer have well-defined roles and responsibilities. Drinking water that meets
EPA’s health-based standards is generally considered safe to
drink. The United States is among the relatively few countries
in the world where tourists are not afraid to drink the water.
How would you sum up the effect of the SDWA on the
water utility sector?
When Congress wrote SDWA in 1974, the law focused primarily on treatment systems as the key to protecting public
health. The school of thought was—if we control certain
contaminants at the treatment plant and coliforms in the
distribution system, then the water will be safe at the tap.
Over time, it was recognized that this approach was insufficient to deliver the results the American consumer expected.
Q&A with Peter Grevatt, PhD
Director, EPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water
Safe Drinking Water Act: Regulatory Perspective