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Know your water: TCEQ expert explains Consumer Confidence Reports

June 29, 2018 – Check your June or July water bill

Consumer Confidence Reports provide people with information about the source or sources of their water. In Martindale, the water system there uses wells under the influence of the San Marcos River.
Consumer Confidence Reports provide people with information about the source or sources of their water. In Martindale, the water system there uses wells under the influence of the San Marcos River.

In today’s times, information comes at us in a flood, through the Internet and social media, but also via email, television, radio, and more.

It’s easy to tune much—if not most—of it out. However, a document you are likely to get in your June or July water bill is one you should pay special attention to.

It’s called a Consumer Confidence Report, which informs you how well your public water system is working for you and your family. The report provides you with information you can use to protect your health, and it helps hold your public water system accountable to its customers.

The TCEQ’s job, as the state’s primary environmental regulator of water systems, is to protect public health and to ensure applicable laws and regulations are followed, including the issuing of Consumer Confidence Reports each year.

Michele Risko, a manager in the TCEQ’s Water Supply Division, which oversees the agency’s role in Consumer Confidence Reports, took some time out of her busy schedule to help you understand exactly what these documents do for you:

TCEQNews: Why are Consumer Confidence Reports issued? What is the purpose?

Risko: The CCR is a document that provides consumers with information about the quality of drinking water in an easy-to-read format. The Environmental Protection Agency requires community public water systems to deliver a Consumer Confidence Report, also known as an annual drinking water quality report, to their customers.

According to the EPA, CCRs are intended to “improve public health protection by providing educational material to allow consumers to make educated decisions regarding any potential health risk pertaining to the quality, treatment, and management of their water system.” The CCR summarizes data that water systems already collect to comply with federal and state regulations. It includes information about the sources of water used—such as, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, or aquifers—chemical contaminants, bacteriological contaminants, compliance with drinking water rules, educational health information, water system contact information, and public participation opportunities.

TCEQNews: What sort of things should a person look for on the report?

Risko: While every part of the report is important for each customer to review, a key point in the CCR is the exceedances of maximum contaminant levels and the associated potential health effects.

(Editor’s note: MCLs are limits of substances in water that the EPA sets under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act).

TCEQNews: When do Consumer Confidence Reports come out?

Risko: The TCEQ requires every community public water system to provide a CCR to their customers by July 1 each year, which includes information from the previous calendar year. By July 1, 2018, community water systems must report on the performance of their system for the 2017 calendar year.

TCEQNews: If a person sees issues on a Consumer Confidence Report, are there any outlets for them to raise those concerns or learn more about the issue?

Risko: The Consumer Confidence Report can help you make informed choices about the water you drink. If there are concerns about the CCR, you can contact your local water provider. In addition, you can contact your healthcare provider if you have questions regarding your drinking water and your health.

The CCR template that the TCEQ provides to community public water systems also includes contact information for the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline exit (1-800-426-4791), a toll-free number that people can use to obtain more information about contaminants and potential health effects.

TCEQNews: What is the agency’s role in the Consumer Confidence Reports?

Risko: As the primary agency (meaning, the authority that the EPA delegates to states exit) for the public water system supervision program for Texas, our agency is responsible for developing rules and regulations and implementing programs as stringent as the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Specifically, for Consumer Confidence Reports, we developed and implemented the CCR rules and regulations, which were approved by the EPA. Our process includes reviewing Consumer Confidence Reports submitted by public water systems and determining compliance with CCR rules and regulations. Community public water systems receive a violation from our agency if they do not provide Consumer Confidence Reports to their customers or the TCEQ as required. They will also receive a violation if the CCR is inadequate.

In addition to assisting water systems with advice on how to be in compliance with the CCR rule, we provide a CCR generator. The CCR generator is a tool to assist public water systems in generating a basic template of the report, which they can customize to produce their CCR. The agency also has a handy checklist for CCRs Adobe Acrobat PDF Document for community public water systems.

The TCEQ also maintains several webpages to inform the public about CCRs and to help water systems comply with the rules, including a beginner’s guide to the CCR, guide to completing CCRs, and updates on CCRs.

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