UCMR4: What’s to Come?

drinking_waterThe 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) amendments require that once every five years the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issue a new list of no more than 30 unregulated contaminants to be monitored by public water systems (PWSs). With the third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Regulation (UCMR 3) winding down, the EPA is working hard to determine which contaminants will make the list for UCMR4. Although the EPA has yet to release information about UCMR4, the process the EPA uses in making decisions regarding the newest UCMR schedules may shed some light on which contaminants will make the final list.

How does the EPA determine which contaminants will become a part of UCMR4?

The EPA reviews contaminants that have been targeted through existing prioritization processes, including previous UCMR contaminants and the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL). Additional contaminants are identified based on current research on occurrence and health effect risk factors. Typically, pesticides that are not registered for use in the United States, contaminants that do not have an analytical reference standard, and contaminants whose analytical methods are not ready for use are removed from the final list. The EPA further prioritizes the remaining contaminants based on more extensive health effects evaluations by the Office of Water’s Office of Science and Technology. The procedures for evaluating health effects were developed to support the ranking of contaminants for future CCLs.

Why is UCMR important?

UCMR provides the EPA and other interested parties with scientifically valid data on the occurrence of these contaminants in drinking water. This information benefits the environment and public health by assessing population exposure. The EPA uses this data set of occurrence and exposure information to develop regulatory decisions for emerging contaminants.

What is the EPA Laboratory Approval Program?

Based on previous UCMR rounds, all laboratories interested in analyzing samples for PWSs subject to the UCMR4 monitoring requirements will need to register for the EPA Laboratory Approval Program. Following the EPA’s review, qualified laboratories will become eligible to participate in a proficiency testing (PT) program. Laboratories successfully completing the PT analyses will be granted method-specific approval. UCMR4 will require that laboratories have EPA approval to analyze PWS samples.

What is Babcock Laboratories’ contribution to UCMR?

The laboratory approval process is technically challenging and rigorous, requiring the expertise of seasoned chemists and specialized instrumentation. Only a handful of laboratories from across the country qualify for approval. Babcock Labs has been one of the elite few to receive EPA approval during each round of UCMR since its inception. Babcock Labs has provided critical UCMR program data for over twenty years, producing hundreds of thousands of analytical results in the last three years alone. As UCMR3 enters the final year of data acquisition, the chemists at Babcock Lab are eagerly anticipating the next phase of the program. Our professionals can’t wait for UCMR4 and what’s to come.

For more information about the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Program, visit water.epa.gov.

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