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Public Database Helps Users Provide Clean Drinking Water

EPA's Drinking Water Treatability Database provides a one-stop shop for information on contaminants and treatment options.


Young girl drinking from a water fountain

“It’s potentially the largest single compilation of referenced drinking water treatment data in one place,” remarked EPA’s Richard Miltner, an environmental engineer and the database administrator of the agency’s recently updated Drinking Water Treatability Database (TDB).

The TDB is a “one-stop shop” type of tool to help anyone looking for information on water contaminants and water treatment techniques. Drinking water managers, system operators, engineers, and regulators can use the TDB for on-the-job decisions about contamination control and treatment. Researchers, environmental groups, and academics may also use the TDB to enhance understanding and direct future research of drinking water contaminants and their treatment processes.

Before the TDB was developed, finding drinking water contaminant information and treatment processes required searches through multiple scientific references, even for just a single contaminant. EPA researchers have been pulling data from a number of sources, including peer-reviewed scientific literature, conference proceedings, textbooks, and web sites, into one user-friendly database.

The database provides important information for people tasked with keeping the nation’s drinking water clean and safe. It includes an overview of each contaminant, a list of physical, chemical, and biological properties, summaries of the effectiveness of various treatment processes, and references.

Planning for an Emergency
Drinking Water Supply
Photo of trees by a river

EPA researchers are assisting water utility managers to help ensure that they have back up supplies of safe drinking water available in the event of a terrorist attack or an emergency. By working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, State National Guard units, state drinking water agencies, and others, EPA helps provide water supplies during disasters such as last summer's Tropical Storm Irene that put many Vermont water utilities out of commission for a time.

Working collaboratively with EPA's Office of Water and the American Water Works Association, EPA's homeland security researchers held five workshops in 2009 and 2010 to highlight the importance of local utilities having a plan to supply water to their communities during an emergency.

A recent EPA report, “Planning for an Emergency Drinking Water Supply,” resulted from these workshops.  According to Trevor Riggen, Vice President of Disaster Operations at the American Red Cross, “…the report is very useful in bringing together local emergency management, non-governmental organizations including Red Cross chapters, and state officials in an effort to develop and regularly update their local plans. During an actual emergency, these plans will be important to all response agencies in gaining a quick understanding of local capacity, equipment and responsible parties."

Learn More

Water: Emergency Preparedness
FEMA Emergency Preparedness Exit EPA Disclaimer
EPA's Natural Disaster Homepage

Currently, the TDB contains information on 60 contaminants, including those currently regulated in drinking water, those on the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) for consideration for regulation, and emerging contaminants of concern that may still be unregulated.

The TDB also describes 34 treatment processes, including processes most commonly used by utilities today and processes less common but known to be effective. Users can match their contaminants of concern with treatment processes that fit their specific situation.

This database is a public resource and was designed based on users’ needs. “We wanted to have something the public could use to be able to get information on specific contaminants in the water,” explains Miltner.

As the only database of its kind, the TDB is an extremely valuable source for drinking water contaminant information.  With it, users can make better informed decisions about what drinking water treatment processes works best for a specific contaminant.  The result?  Safer drinking water.

Learn More

About the Drinking Water Treatability Database

Drinking Water Contaminants

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