EPA Orders Amtrak To Test Drinking Water On Trains

Amtrak has agreed to test the drinking water systems annually in all of its water-carrying railcars, avoiding EPA enforcement action.
EPA characterizes the agreement as a "consent order" that settles potential litigation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Signed by Amtrak officials Thursday, The consent order brings the rail passenger service up to a standard EPA imposed on airlines after EPA agents conducting random tests in 2004 found coliform bacteria in the drinking water of 15 percent of aircraft at 19 U.S. airports.
After reaching similar agreements with airlines, EPA turned its attention to Amtrak.
“This agreement is a significant step forward in assuring safe water supplies for the more than 25 million people in the U.S. who travel by rail each year,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin.
While Amtrak has run afoul of EPA in the past for polluted storm-water runoff, it has not been cited by the EPA for drinking water violations. However, in 2009, fecal coliform bacteria were detected in three passenger cars and a potable water hose at Amtrak's Sunnyside Yard in Queens, New York.
The water hydrant and the watering systems in all three passenger cars were immediately taken out of service. Additionally, the passenger cars were removed from service at end-point, water systems drained and flushed, retested and not returned to service until satisfactory laboratory tests were obtained…. Upon notification, EPA expressed satisfaction with the prompt and direct action taken by Amtrak Public Health.
via Amtrak 2009 Environmental Health and Safety Annual Report (pdf)
Non-fecal coliform bacteria were found in 17 cars that year.
In 2010, no fecal coliform bacteria were found, but non-fecal coliform bacteria were found in drinking water samples from 16 cars, according to Amtrak documents.
Amtrak has sampled its drinking water since 1993 to comply with prior agreements with EPA, but prior to the consent agreement signed Thursday, Amtrak only sampled its drinking water randomly. Amtrak's four public health managers each would sample drinking water from 20 passenger cars and one hydrant every month.
Once Friday's agreement is implemented—within the next two years—every sleeper, slumber, dormitory, lounge, diner and buffet car must be tested annually. All other cars must be tested at least once every two years.
The consent order also requires disinfection and system flushing, corrective action and notification, follow-up monitoring, preventive maintenance, and record keeping.
Amtrak maintains a fleet of about 1,500 railcars. According to Amtrak, more than 78,000 passengers ride more than 300 trains each day.

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