Background - What is the WIIN Act?
The WIIN ACT was passed by Congress on December 16, 2016. The act made changes to Section 1414 (c) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to require EPA, with states and public water systems (PWS), to notify and provide information to affected households once EPA receives drinking water data that indicates a household has drinking water levels above EPA’s lead action level (15 ppb). This data may be generated by a single household or by a researcher or other third party. This data will not include lead results generated by your PWS under the Lead and Copper Rule, as those results are provided to the customer within 30 days of the PWS receiving the data.
To comply with the WIIN Act, EPA developed a strategic plan to ensure appropriate outreach to any individual or entity directly contacting EPA about any lead result(s) that exceeded the lead action level of 15 ppb and that were not collected under the Lead and Copper Rule. This plan identifies how EPA, primacy agencies, and owners and operators of PWS will work together and provide targeted outreach, education, technical assistance, and risk communication when EPA receives such sampling results.
When EPA receives lead sampling results from a source different than the primacy agency (MassDEP) or PWS, indicating that the drinking water of a household served by a PWS exceeds the action level for lead (15 ppb), it triggers the following steps under the WIIN ACT:
- EPA receives lead sampling results. EPA determines that the result(s) or data are collected and analyzed by accepted methods or best available methods.
- EPA forwards sampling results to the PWS and MassDEP.
- The PWS must disseminate the specified information to the affected household(s) with the sampling results within 2 to 5 days (please note that the time clock starts once EPA contacts the PWS).
MassDEP recommends that the PWS copy EPA, MassDEP and the Local Board of Health (LBH) on the information sent to the household so that EPA, MassDEP and the LBH will know that the PWS complied with the WIIN ACT notification process and timeline.
- If the PWS disseminates the information on time, the notice requirements under the WIIN Act are met.
- If the PWS DOES NOT disseminate the information on time, EPA will consult with the Governor of Massachusetts no later than 24 hours after EPA becomes aware of the PWS’s failure to notify the affected household(s), to develop an information dissemination plan within a period not to exceed 24 hours.
- If EPA and the Governor agree on a plan within 24 hours, the information will be disseminated to the affected household(s) within 24 hours after consultation ends.
- If EPA and the Governor do NOT agree on a plan within 24 hours, EPA will disseminate the information to the affected household(s) as soon as practicable.
What should a PWS do if contacted by EPA and/or MassDEP with a WIIN ACT request?
The public water supplier (PWS) shall take the following actions:
- The PWS will receive the complete Data Submission template from EPA containing the sampling results, protocols and analytical methods for the affected household(s) along with a possible timeframe specified by EPA to disseminate the information:
- Within 2 business days for one to ten households
- Within 5 business days for 11 or more households
- After receiving the complete Data Submission notification, the PWS must send the following information to the affected household(s) as soon as possible, but no later than the timeframe specified by EPA:
- a clear explanation of the potential adverse effects on human health of drinking water that contains a concentration of lead that exceeds the lead action level;
- the steps that the owner or operator of the PWS is taking to mitigate the concentration of lead; and
- the necessity of seeking alternative water supplies (e.g. bottled water) until the date on which the concentration of lead is mitigated.
In addition, the water supplier may wish to include additional guidance and resources that the system would like to provide to the affected household. This could include confirmation sampling (if the system had done any confirmation sampling), information about lead testing, results for the public water system sampling (if available), etc.
EPA has developed example templates for PWSs, state agencies, or EPA employees to use to assist in timely disseminating of information to the affected household(s). Templates for Massachusetts PWS are listed below under Additional Resources. Also included in each template is a brief translation for non-English speakers that can be provided to the affected households. The translation states “This report contains important information about your drinking water” and it is translated into 27 languages.
- Information must be delivered to the affected household(s) by email (with confirmation request), certified mail, or hand delivered.
- The information must be directed to the affected consumers.
- If the household tested is an apartment, the information must be sent to the unit(s) tested, and to the property owner or property manager.
- If the household is unoccupied, the information must be sent to the owner and the person that submitted the applicable data.
- If the occupants are not the property owners, the PWS must also send a copy of the information to the owner or property manager.
- Once the PWS have disseminated the required information, the PWS must notify EPA and MassDEP using the confirmation form (see WIIN Confirmation Form in Additional Resources below).
Note: MassDEP expects that WIIN Act requests may be an infrequent occurrence, but it is important that when data are received indicating that drinking water sample(s) collected from a home is above the lead action level, the results be provided to the customer as soon as possible, along with information that the customer can use to take appropriate action to protect their health. This procedure and materials will ensure that that happens. MassDEP may disseminate consumer information if it determines such is necessary.
Public Water Systems - Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why did the public water system receive a WIIN Act request to provide consumer education?
A: The public water system received a request because a consumer served by the public water system tested drinking water from their tap and received a result above the lead action level of 15 ppb. Therefore, the consumer needs to be provided with information on the health effects of lead and how to reduce their exposure to lead at the tap.
Q: What happens if the data EPA receives is from a household that is not associated with a public water system? Does this requirement apply to samples collected by a homeowner not served by a public water system?
A: The WIIN Act only applies when the data is from a household served by a public water system (serves more than 25 persons). If EPA develops or receives data associated with a household not served by a public water system, EPA intends to contact the relevant state agency so appropriate next steps are taken; such as providing important information about lead in drinking water and how the homeowner can reduce their exposure.
Q: How do WIIN Act requests work if the sample was collected at a public facility or school?
A: The requirements triggered by this section of the WIIN Act (SDWA Section 1414(c)(5)(B)) only discuss “affected households” and therefore does not apply to data EPA develops or receives regarding lead levels at a non-residential public facility or school. If EPA receives information about a sample result from a non-residential public facility or a school that exceeds the lead action level, EPA will follow up with the appropriate parties, even though it will not trigger the process outlined in the Strategic Plan (SDWA Section 1414(c)(5)).
Q: How would a residence in a transient public water system be handled? Would results from a transient water system also require consumer education?
A: A Transient Non-Community Water System (TNCWS) is a public water system that provides water in a place such as a gas station, rest area, hotel, motel, or campground where people generally do not remain for long periods of time, and therefore the TNCWS is typically not serving “a household”. In some cases, however, a TNCWS may serve persons residing at the site – i.e. a “household”. In that case, the requirements in Section 1414(c)(5)(B) would apply if EPA received data from a source other than a state or public water system that indicates the water at such a household exceeds the action level.
Q: Can tap sampling used in a WIIN Act request be conducted at any time during the year?
A: The WIIN Act requirements in 1414(c)(5)(B) can be triggered by samples taken at any time of year.
Q: Do WIIN Act samples need to be analyzed with an EPA approved method?
A: The requirements in SDWA Section 1414(c)(5)(B) are only triggered if the data “meets the requirements of section 1412(b)(3)(A)(ii)” which speaks to data collected by acceptable methods or best available methods. EPA will consider acceptable methods as those that have been approved for drinking water compliance such as the methods identified in the Lead and Copper Rule. Other methods may also be considered best available methods on a case by case basis.
Q: What can MassDEP do to assist the public water systems?
A: MassDEP can assist a public water system that needs to provide notice under the WIIN Act (SDWA Section 1414(c)(5)) by helping to answer key questions on what information must be distributed and to whom. MassDEP will work with the public water system to support their compliance with the WIIN Act consumer education requirement.
Contact Information for MassDEP Drinking Water Program