Policy for Reporting Maximum Contaminant Level Exceedances



IN REPLY REFER TO: 
WGS-Mail Stop 412                                          APR 23 1990

WATER RESOURCES DIVISION MEMORANDUM NO. 90.38

SUBJECT:PROGRAMS AND PLANS--Policy for Reporting Maximum 
        Contaminant Level Exceedances

POLICY

It is the policy of the Water Resources Division (WRD) to 
promptly notify agencies that have a need to know when 
constituents in water samples collected by or for the U.S. 
Geological Survey (USGS) exceed Maximum Contaminant Levels 
(MCL's) specified in the National Primary Drinking Water 
Regulations.  (See attachment 1 for background.)

RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE OFFICE OF WATER QUALITY

The Office of Water Quality (OWQ) will:

1.     Ensure that MCL's in the National Water Information 
System (NWIS) are those currently specified by the U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The NWIS automatically 
flags National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL) data values that 
exceed the MCL's.

2.      Ensure that all WRD offices have a continually updated 
list of MCL's.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF PROJECT OFFICES AND NATIONAL RESEARCH 
PROGRAM PERSONNEL

A significant portion of currently collected water-quality data 
is analyzed with new or provisional methods.  Therefore, EPA 
parameter codes may not be available for entering these data 
into the NWIS and WATSTORE.  Only data stored in NWIS and 
WATSTORE are automatically screened for MCL exceedances.

It is the responsibility of Project Offices, National Research 
Program (NRP) personnel, and other persons collecting and 
analyzing samples by new or provisional methods to:

1.      Visually screen data to determine if constituent 
concentrations exceed the MCL's.

2.      Verify data values that exceed MCL's prior to 
acceptance and reporting.

3.      Report verified MCL exceedances to the District Chief 
for the area in which they are working.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF DISTRICT CHIEFS

District Chiefs will:

1.      Canvass agencies that have a need to know when MCL's 
are exceeded in drinking water or potential drinking-water 
sources.  Using attachment 2, they will determine:

              a.      Whether each canvassed agency wants to be 
                      informed when MCL's are exceeded, and

              b.      Which sampling sites are to be included.

2.      Assure that attachment 2 is signed by each agency 
contacted, whether or not the agency wishes to be informed.  
Copies of all responses are to be kept on file in District 
offices.

3.      Screen data received directly from cooperator and 
contract laboratories for MCL exceedances.  Screening can be 
accomplished using the following NWIS programs:  QWINPUT, 
QWENTER, and QWEDIT.

4.      Verify data values that exceed MCL1s prior to 
acceptance and reporting.  This verification step will be 
applied to exceedances on data delivered to Districts by:

              a.      The NWQL, through the NWIS, and

              b.      Cooperator and contract laboratories.

5.      Notify appropriate agencies of MCL exceedances within 2 weeks of:

              a.      Verification of an MCL exceedance by the 
                      District, and

              b.      Reporting of verified MCL exceedances to the 
                      District Chief by Project Offices and NRP personnel.

Philip Cohen 
Chief Hydrologist

2 Attachments

This memorandum supersedes WRD Memorandum Nos. 77.148 and 77.158.

Distribution: A, B, S, FO, P0 Attachment 1

BACKGROUND ON THE POLICY FOR REPORTING MAXIMUM CONTAMINANT LEVEL 
EXCEEDANCES

Water Resources Division (WRD) Memorandum No. 77.148 requested 
that each District Chief contact State, Federal, and local 
regulatory agencies within the District jurisdiction to inform 
the agencies that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was 
developing a program to "assure prompt reporting of apparent 
water-quality problems to the proper regulatory agencies."  The 
agencies were to be asked whether they wished to be included in 
an Alert Program (now referred to as the Water-Quality Alert 
System implemented within the National Water Information System 
(NWIS) and to indicate the constituents of interest chosen from 
an interim list prepared by the Quality of Water Branch using 
"the most stringent criteria" available for the several water 
uses.

WRD Memorandum No. 77.158 provided the list of constituents and 
their respective limiting values.  The selection of each 
constituent was based on "the maximum contaminant level 
established under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and criteria 
recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 
1976."

From inception until 1988, the Alert System was not updated as 
criteria were changed and expanded.  During November 1988, the 
constituent list was examined, and current Maximum Contaminant 
Levels (MCL's) specified by the EPA for National Primary 
Drinking Water Regulations were entered into the Alert System. 
The Office of Water Quality investigated the possibility of also 
including criteria for aquatic life and recreational uses of 
water.  These variable criteria are established primarily at the 
State and local level and cannot be properly accommodated by the 
current NWIS which can only flag national level exceedances. 
When the next version of NWIS becomes operational, the Division 
will have greatly expanded capability for alerts, including 
simultaneous use of numerous national, State, and local criteria 
lists.

 Attachment 2

 U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Division

(Local Address)

Agency Address

 Dear Sir:

The Water Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey 
routinely collects water-quality data as part of its nationwide 
program.  These data are collected for a wide variety of 
purposes and become public information after verification and 
acceptance by our staff.  As a routine measure, we have an Alert 
System built into our computer data files that automatically 
flags data that exceed the National Primary Drinking Water 
Regulations Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL's) specified by the 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Because of the responsibilities of your agency, you may wish to 
receive a copy of the data that exceed any of these standards 
prior to public release.  Signing and returning the attached 
form will document your desire to receive the data and specify 
the particular data you wish to receive.  We respectfully 
request that a representative from your agency sign and return 
this form whether or not you choose to be notified.

Sincerely,

District Chief

Request for Pre-Release of Water-Quality Data

The (Agency name) ______________________________________ does/
does not (circle one) want to receive copies of U.S. Geological 
Survey water-quality data that are flagged as exceeding the 
Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL's) specified in the National 
Primary Drinking Water Regulations by the U.S. Environmental 
Protection Agency.  I understand that the data provided will 
include information describing the sample location and identify 
the specific values that exceed the MCL's.  Constituents to be 
reported include major ions, nutrients, trace elements, 
radiochemical elements, pesticide residues, and other organic 
compounds. 

Sampling locations                     Yes                         No

All surface-water sites                ___                         ___ 
All ground-water sites                 ___                         ___

Selected surface-water sites 

                                          Attach sheet to specify sites 

Selected ground-water sites

 Please send the data to the following address:

Signature of 
requester______________________________Date___________

Title of requester_______________________________