With the intensified inspection of the Division of Environmental Quality on various water companies on the island, officials of the agency have assured the public they will continue to carry out their job to ensure the safety of the bottled water distributed in the CNMI.
Recently, DEQ and the US Environmental Protection Agency held a seminar for managers of bottled water companies and restaurants to explain the importance of following the safe water regulations
DEQ was mandated by the US EPA to conduct regular test on some eight water companies on the island. The CNMI has adopted a Safe Drinking Water Act and regulations which are as stringent as the rules imposed by the EPA.
Passed by the US Congress in 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act regulates the quality of finished drinking water served from a public water system. It simply aims to ensure the safety of water provided by public water systems in the United States. Public water systems includes collection, treatment, storage and distribution facilities under control of the operator of such systems.
Due to the introduction of many chemicals in the CNMI, the Safe Drinking Water Branch is currently implementing new regulations to monitor contaminants such as nitrates, asbestos and mercury.
For known cancer-causing agents, EPA sets the maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG) at zero under the assumption that any exposure to the chemicals may cause cancer, said Barry Pollock, US EPA environmental engineer, in a presentation he made during the seminar. These are levels at which a person could drink two liters of water containing the contaminant everyday for 70 years with no adverse health effects.
On the other hand, the maximum contaminant level (MCL) is the enforceable, legal limit of contaminants in water. Although MCL is less strict than MCLG, the limits still provide substantial health protection.
Contaminant groups include microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, protozoans) inorganic chemicals (metals, nitrate,fluoride), organic chemicals (synthetic organic chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and volatile organic chemicals which include industrial chemicals and solvents), radionuclides (gross alpha, radium,beta/photon emitters).
EPA mandates that the public must be notified any time there is a violation of a requirement to provide water samples collected from the water system, to be analyzed by a certified laboratory.