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96% of community water systems meet standards

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More than 96 percent of the 4.8 million Missourians served by community public water systems received drinking water that met all maximum contaminant-level standards in 1997, according to the Annual Compliance Report of Missouri Public Drinking Water Systems.

The report, published by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, describes the extent of violations by Missouri public water systems during 1997. A maximum contaminant level is the highest acceptable level of a specific contaminant that will still be protective of public health, according to a news release from the DNR.

"Missouri public water systems showed overall high water quality and good compliance in 1997," said DNR Director Steve Mahfood in the release.

"We expect a lot from our water systems and require testing for as many as 90 different regulated chemicals and microbiological contaminants during the year. A system is to be applauded for performing all required testing and meeting all the maximum contaminant level standards,"Êhe added.

Many public water systems perform testing beyond that required by the state. A public water system, by definition, provides water for human consumption through pipes, or similar means, to at least 15 service connections, or serves an average of 25 people for at least 60 days each year, the DNR stated.

Water testing at systems serving fewer people than this is facilitated by local and county sanitarians, and the Missouri Department of Health, rather than the DNR.

There are three basic types of public water systems. The first is a community system, where people live and consume the water on a daily basis.

A community water system could serve the residents of a large city, a rural water district or a small mobile home park or subdivision.

The second type of system is a nontransient, noncommunity system, such as that of a school or factory, where people drink the water on a regular, but not daily, basis.

The third type of system is a transient, noncommunity system, such as that of a restaurant, resort or campground, that would not be a regular source of drinking water for most of its pass-through customers.

The 1997 annual compliance report covers Missouri's 2,700 active public water systems. Nearly 90 percent of all public water systems met all water quality standards for their maximum contaminant levels, the DNR stated.

Most violations were either a maximum contaminant level violation, when the acceptable level of a specific contaminant is exceeded, or a monitoring violation, when the required testing is not performed in the specified time frame or at all, the release said.

Generally, those violations were for total coliform bacteria, which all Missouri public water systems test for every month they dispense water. Because of good compliance in Missouri, there were only 1,202 monitoring violations for total coliform bacteria in 1997; this is down from 1,328 violations in 1996, the DNR stated.

The DNR works closely with public water systems to help them remain or return to compliance in a timely manner. To receive a copy of the 1997 Annual Compliance Report of Missouri Public Drinking Water Systems, contact DNR's Public Drinking Water Program, PO Box 176, Jefferson City 65102, or call 800-361-4827 or 573-751-5331.

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