EPA Proposes Aircraft Drinking Water Rule

In 2004, EPA tested aircraft drinking water quality and reviewed air carrier compliance with regulations, finding that 15 percent of examined aircraft tested positive for total coliform bacteria. The agency also found that air carriers were not meeting existing regulations, primarily because those regulations were designed for stationary public water systems. In response, EPA began a process to tailor the existing regulations for aircraft public water systems and placed 45 air carriers under administrative orders on consent that are in effect until aircraft drinking water regulations are final.

The agency says its newly proposed Aircraft Drinking Water Rule, designed to protect the public--aircraft passengers and crews--from illnesses that can result from microbiological contamination, tailors existing health-based drinking water regulations to fit the unique characteristics of aircraft public water systems. The proposed rule will protect drinking water through monitoring, disinfection, and public notification, a combination that EPA believes will better protect public health. The approach will build on existing aircraft operations and maintenance programs and better coordinate federal programs that regulate aircraft water systems.

EPA's rule applies to the aircraft's onboard water system only. The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for regulating the airport watering points that include the water cabinets, carts, trucks, and hoses from which aircraft board water. EPA and the states are responsible for regulating public water systems that supply drinking water to the airport watering points. While the proposed rule addresses only aircraft within U.S. jurisdiction, EPA also is supporting an international effort led by the World Health Organization to develop international guidelines for aircraft drinking water. More information about aircraft drinking water is available at www.epa.gov/airlinewater/regs.html.

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