EPA Issues Final Aircraft Drinking Water Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is issuing a final rule to ensure that safe and reliable drinking water is provided to aircraft passengers and crew. The rule provides multiple-barrier protection through requirements for coliform sampling, best management practices, corrective action, public notification, monitoring, and operator training. EPA says the rule will better protect the public from illnesses caused by microbiological contamination.

"This rule is a significant step forward in protecting people’s health when they travel," said Peter S. Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. "EPA has taken this step to make sure the public has drinking water that meets standards, both in the air and on the ground."

EPA said the final rule tailors existing health-based drinking water regulations to fit the unique characteristics of aircraft public water systems, which are subject to the requirements of the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs) under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The rule amends NPDWRs for these systems, building on existing aircraft operations and maintenance programs. EPA noted, however, that the 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 the public water systems that supply drinking water to the airport watering points.

Furthermore, the rule addresses aircraft only within U.S. jurisdiction. EPA added, however, that it supported an international effort led by the World Health Organization to develop international guidelines for aircraft drinking water. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/safewater/airlinewater/index.html.

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