EPA Announces Final Rule to Improve Public Awareness of Drinking Water Quality

May 20, 2024
The EPA announced a final rule to make annual drinking water quality reports more understandable and accessible to the public. These reports are an important tool that drinking water systems use to inform residents about water quality and any contaminants that have been found in the water. Starting in 2027, this final rule will ensure that these reports are easier to read and support access to translations in appropriate languages while enhancing information about lead in drinking water. EPA is also taking steps to streamline the delivery of reports by encouraging electronic methods.
“EPA is taking action today to help ensure that the American public has improved access to information about the drinking water in their communities by strengthening requirements for annual drinking water quality reports,” said acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water Bruno Pigott. “Today's announcement will ensure these reports are easier to understand, and easier to access in additional languages to provide all people with the information they want and need about their water.”
The final rule will support public education by more clearly communicating important information in water quality reports and improving access to the reports. Water systems are currently required to provide annual drinking water reports to customers each year, and with this rule systems serving over 10,000 customers will be required to distribute reports twice per year. The final rule also introduces a new reporting requirement that will provide EPA with better information to make decisions on oversight, enforcement, regulatory revisions, and training and technical assistance. Today’s final rule will require states to submit compliance monitoring data they already receive from public water systems to EPA annually.
A Consumer Confidence Report, sometimes called a “Drinking Water Quality Report,” summarizes information about the local drinking water. As part of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, Congress instructed EPA to revise the Consumer Confidence Report Rule. The final rule will support the goal of the Safe Drinking Water Act “right-to-know” provisions by improving the Consumer Confidence Reports so that people can make better decisions about their drinking water. EPA’s final rule will work to further that goal by making sure important information in annual reports are accurate and accessible.
California Adds Safeguards to Protect Workers Against Silicosis
California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is increasing efforts to address the growing number of silicosis cases among stone workers in California. Man-made stone that is frequently used contains higher concentrations of crystalline silica that can severely scar lung tissue when inhaled.
With cases of silicosis increasing in California, Cal/OSHA has further intensified its enforcement and education efforts. On December 14, 2023, an emergency temporary standard was adopted to enhance existing guidelines for respirable crystalline silica hazards. Since then, Cal/OSHA has closed several stone cutting shops in the state that were not providing proper safety protections for their employees. A public meeting is scheduled on May 16 to consider a revised proposal for readoption of the emergency temporary standard to protect workers from the hazards of silica dust.
DIR and Cal/OSHA recently launched a bilingual public awareness and education campaign that offers employers and workers resources and information about the proper use of safety equipment and safe worksite practices. The campaign website, worksafewithsilica.org also provides vital information for workers on workplace safety rights and how to report safety violations.
Since 2019, more than 100 California stone workers have developed silicosis, with at least 10 deaths among workers under the age of 40. DIR and Cal/OSHA are reducing the risk of silicosis through advocacy, education and enforcement.
Cal/OSHA’s workplace safety laws and emergency temporary standard are key components to ensure that workers are safe. Increasing awareness to employers and employees of the dangerous effects of inhaling respirable crystalline silica dust from tasks like grinding, drilling and cutting, can help save lives and avoid incurable health conditions like silicosis, lung cancer and kidney diseases.
WHAT DIR Director Katie Hagen said: “The startling uptick in deadly silicosis cases in our state underscores the necessity to protect workers from this fatal disease. Man-made stone products with high silica content, like countertops, can only be fabricated safely with proper safety equipment and practices, such as water systems, safe cleaning of dust and debris and the use of the best respiratory protection available. Failure to follow these life-saving practices can have grave consequences for some of California’s most vulnerable workers. Our department, through Cal/OSHA, is proactively working to educate employers on safe worksite practices, enforcing regulatory standards, and warning workers of its hazards.”
Dust Monitor Incident Prompts Alert on Battery Fire, Explosion Hazards
A safety alert issued recently by MSHA highlights the importance of protecting lithium battery-powered devices from unusual or excessive heat, stress, and impacts. The alert stems from an incident on April 11 in which a falling rock struck a continuous personal dust monitor that had been placed on top of a continuous mining machine.
The impact caused the device to catch fire, and miners also reported an explosion before the flames extinguished. MSHA urges employers to train workers in the proper care and use of equipment powered by lithium batteries. The agency stresses that lithium batteries are a safe power source for handheld devices—including continuous personal dust monitors, handheld radios, and cell phones—when batteries are properly designed and manufactured, and when device users follow manufacturers’ instructions for storage, use, charging, and maintenance.
An earlier safety and health bulletin published in 2019 by OSHA provides additional information about preventing fire and explosion injuries from small and wearable devices powered by lithium batteries.
OSHA agrees that lithium batteries are “generally safe and unlikely to fail” but cautions that they may present a fire or explosion hazard if they have design defects or are made of low-quality materials. Incorrect assembly, improper use or recharging, and damage, including from physical impact, may contribute to fire and explosion hazards related to lithium batteries, the agency explains.
Want to stay up to date on lithium battery regulations? Visit our YouTube Channel: 2023 Updated Shipping a Laptop with a Lithium Battery by Ground!
Department of Labor Alleges Subcontractor Knowingly Exposed Employees to Asbestos Hazards
Alleging that K.L.F. Enterprises — a Chicago demolition subcontractor — knew it was exposing its employees and others to the serious dangers of asbestos at a Waukegan work site, the U.S. Department of Labor has cited the company for 36 safety and health violations after a federal investigation.
In November 2023, investigators with OSHA opened a complaint inspection after they observed K.L.F. employees not wearing protective equipment amid piles of debris and steel I-beams during structural demolition of the eight-story former Lakes Behavioral Health hospital.
OSHA determined that K.L.F. continued demolition activities — disturbing and removing asbestos used to fireproof the building's interior — despite recognizing the debris piles outside were likely asbestos-laden. The company did not stop work or require employees to take appropriate precautions and use established control measures to protect themselves from this long-recognized hazard.
"K.L.F. Enterprises' decision not to stop work immediately or ensure appropriate control measures were followed when asbestos was clearly visible exposed these employees to a highly carcinogenic material with the potential for permanent, negative long-term health outcomes," explained Chicago North OSHA Area Director Sukhvir Kaur in Arlington Heights. "We will hold companies accountable when they fail in their duty to protect the safety and health of their employees."
OSHA investigators discovered the company possessed a 2019 building survey that clearly identified the extensive use of asbestos to fireproof the structural' beams but did not inform their employees of the hazards. In fact, agency investigators later determined the building's insulation and fireproofing materials contained up to 15 percent chrysotile asbestos and K.L.F. had also failed to notify the site's general contractor, Reed Illinois Construction in Chicago and the  building's owner, V Covington LLC of Waukegan of the discovery of asbestos at the site during demolition work.
K.L.F. Enterprises received citations for lack of compliance with OSHA's asbestos regulations, including a willful violation for failing to notify employees and other contractors of material containing asbestos, as well as violations related to the company's failures to require employees to wear protective equipment. The agency  also cited the company for its failure to train employees to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions, provide medical surveillance of employees for asbestos, silica and lead exposures; and for other deficiencies in how K.L.F. handled asbestos, silica and lead materials and waste at the site. In addition, OSHA cited the company for exposing employees to safety hazards by not providing adequate fall protection around floor openings.
OSHA assessed K.L.F. with $392,002 in proposed penalties.
The agency also cited Reed Illinois Construction for not ensuring its subcontractor, K.L.F. Enterprises, met federal safety and health standards for asbestos and for failing to inspect the site frequently and regularly for safety hazards, as required. OSHA has assessed the general contractor with $32,262 in proposed penalties.
In addition, OSHA issued a serious violation to V Covington LLC and proposed a $16,131 penalty for the owner's failure to ensure K.L.F. Enterprises and another subcontractor, Alliance Environmental Control Inc. complied with the federal asbestos standard. Alliance Environmental Control Inc. of  Lansing received a serious citation for creating asbestos hazards by not removing asbestos, including the fireproofing insulation, and faces a proposed OSHA penalty of $6,452.
Since 2000, K.L.F. Enterprises has been a family-owned business offering demolition and excavation services for residential, commercial, industrial, and municipal clients in the Chicagoland area. The company has locations in Chicago and in Oak Forest.
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