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Consumer confidence reports hold public water accountable

Consumer confidence reports hold public water accountable

Consumer confidence reports hold public water accountable

Since it is Water Awareness Month in Kentucky, it is a good time to explore how public water companies will distribute Consumer Confidence Reports to their customers in the coming year.

In 1996, Congress passed an amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act requiring all public water companies to provide customers with Consumer Confidence Reports. These reports will contain information about the source of raw water for each system, a listing of Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standards for any contaminants found in local drinking water; levels of contaminants, likely causes for contaminants; source of information on related topics and details about how vulnerable people can avoid Cryptosporidium, a parasite that can cause waterborne diseases.

Kentucky-American Water Company serves nearly 300,000 customers in central Kentucky. With more than 14 billion gallons of water going out to customers, water quality is a high priority.

"Kentucky-American is in a unique situation compared to other companies," Barbara Brown, director of communications for KAWC, said. "We've been doing a water quality report card for our customers for years and it will essentially become the Consumer Confidence Report."

KAWC's 'report card' contains detailed information about your water, including the results of 13,125 tests performed on your drinking water each month. The report card will turn into the EPA-compliant Consumer Confidence Report by October 1999.

"We (KAWC) have gone through dilligent reviews of the EPA's final ruling on Consumer Confidence Reports," Brown said. "Water quality can be a complex issue, and we want our customers to understand the reports."

Kim Henken, extension associate for environmental and natural resource issues for the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, said water systems that exceed the drinking water standards for any contaminant will be required to provide information about associated health risks. They'll also have to explain how they plan to remedy such violations.

Large water systems, serving more than 10,000 customers, will mail reports directly to the customers in bills or in separate mailings. Kentucky-American Water Company will mail an insert with the July 1999 bill to explain the Consumer Confidence Reports to its customers. By October 1999, the reports will be available in many ways including the World Wide Web. The reports also will be sent to appropriate media outlets. All KAWC customers who have questions about the new reports can call toll-free 1-877-24-WATER (92837).

Smaller water system requirements differ from state-to-state. In Kentucky, systems with 500 to 10,000 customers will need to publish the report in one or more local newspapers and inform billed customers the report will not be mailed. They will have to furnish the reports upon customer request. Systems with less than 500 customers don't have to publish reports in local newspapers, but they must notify their clients in some way when the Consumer Confidence Reports are ready. Also, they must provide copies upon request.

"We have more than 700 water systems in Kentucky," Henken said. "Most less than 10,000 people, and almost half serve less than 500. They won't have to send out reports, but they will still have to have them ready if anyone asks for the information."

The Consumer Confidence Reports will give customers useful information to empower them to make informed decisions about their drinking water. Individuals should use their right to be involved and help improve conditions, if needed, to protect a quality water source.

Contact Information

Scovell Hall Lexington, KY 40546-0064