What is a consumer confidence report (CCR)?

A CCR is an annual report on drinking water quality that community public water suppliers must deliver to their customers. Reports are due every July 1 for the previous calendar year. These reports are mandated by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) is the state agency authorized to implement and enforce drinking water mandates such as the CCR rule.

Who has to file a CCR?

All community public water systems (PWS) are required to prepare and provide to their customers an annual consumer confidence report on the quality of their drinking water. A community public water system is defined as a public water system that serves at least 15 connections used by year-round residents or regularly serves at least 25 year-round residents. These reports will allow consumers to make personal health-based decisions regarding their water consumption. In Massachusetts there are approximately 533 community PWSs.

How is the average citizen supposed to interpret or use the data in the CCR or water quality report?

The report should say whether the water meets federal and state standards for safe drinking water. The presence of a particular ingredient does not mean that the water is unsafe to drink. However, if something is detected above the maximum level, the PWS must discuss the potential health effects, and actions taken to correct the problem.

People who have special health problems, immune deficiencies, or pregnant women should check with their health care provider if contaminants are detected in concentrations that are above the standard or maximum contaminant level (MCL).

Who is responsible for ensuring that the local water supplier is reporting the truth?

If a contaminant exceeds the standard or MCL, the PWS must notify their consumers about the potential health effects and what they must do until the problem is solved. MassDEP must be notified. MassDEP reviews all violations and reports to ensure accurate and truthful reporting.

How can consumers get additional information on their public drinking water?

Consumers should contact their PWS directly if they want more information on their local system. Fact sheets on drinking water, contaminants, health effects, and public education materials are available on the MassDEP and US EPA websites. Citizens may also call the US EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.

If a substance is detected and reported in the CCR, does that mean the water is unsafe to drink?

No, detecting a substance does not necessarily mean the water is unsafe to drink. When concentrations of substances in the water exceed certain health-based standards, MassDEP determines the potential for health impacts and orders the system to notify its consumers and take corrective actions. Corrective actions can include the use of an alternative source, treatment, or boiling.

Are the reports available in different languages?

Systems that have 25% or more of a particular population who speak a language other than English must translate the CCR into that language. Chelsea, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, and New Bedford must do a complete CCR translation. Systems that have 10% or more of a particular population who speak a language other than English must include an "Important - Please have this CCR translated" statement in language used in their community. There are fifty-one of these municipalities.

Why do consumers need to have this information? What does MassDEP hope the outcome will be?

Most environmental laws have a consumer right-to-know component. The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 included several consumer right-to-know provisions. The CCR rule is the one with the most impact on community public water systems. These reports discuss the local drinking water quality and their PWS's compliance with the federal standards for safe drinking water.

MassDEP hopes that people will realize that public drinking water must meet stringent standards. MassDEP also hopes that these reports will lead to better communication between the system and the consumer, and the consumer will know whom to contact if they have problems.