Refer to Table 1. The codification of the Safe Drinking Water Act is found in Title 42, "The Public Health and Welfare." The chapters of this title range from Chapter 1 to Chapter 139. Chapter 139, the last chapter, is "Volunteer Protection." Chapter 1, "The Public Health Service," was repealed and renamed as Chapter 6A, but "The Public Health Service" was retained as the chapter title. Subchapter XII of Chapter 6A is "Safety of Public Water Systems;" this is the Safe Drinking Water Act, which, as passed by Congress, is called "Title XIV—Safety of Public Water Systems." It contains Sections 300f through 300j-26. The last section pertains to certification of testing laboratories. Table 4 summarizes the major sections of the act (indicated in the second column) as codified in the corresponding sections of the USC (first column). The USC citation for the Safe Drinking Water Act is 42 USC 300f-300j-26.
In the United States, the passage of the Interstate Quarantine Act of 1893 can be considered as the first law that eventually led to the establishment of drinking water standards. Under this act, the surgeon general of the U.S. Public Health Service was empowered to "... make and enforce such regulations as in his judgment are necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable disease from foreign countries into the states or possessions, or from one state or possession into any other state or possession." It was not until 1912, however, that the first water-related regulation was promulgated. This regulation pertains to the simple prohibition of the use of the common cup on carriers of interstate commerce such as trains.
The first act of Congress that had national importance was the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974. But before this enactment was made, several revisions of the drinking water standards were made in 1914, 1925, 1942, 1946, and 1962.* The following treatment traces the history of the gradually increasing trend of the drinking water standards.
The year 1913 launched the first formal and comprehensive review of drinking water concerns. It was quickly learned that the prohibition of the use of the common
* Pontius, F. W. at the American Water Works Association Web site.
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