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Regulation of Toxic Substances in Drinking Water and Wastewater

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Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
Water Quality - Pollutant Sources and Impacts

Girl Drinking WaterOther legislation protects us by limiting concentrations of toxic substances in the water we drink and in the treated wastewater that we discharge to the environment.

The Safe Drinking Water Act (1974) sets levels of toxic metals and organic chemical permitted in water delivered to the public. These limits are called maximum contaminant levels or MCLs. For example, the MCLs for cadmium and PCBs are 5 and 0.5 parts per billion, respectively.

The Clean Water Act (1977) seeks to make all of our nation's waters 'fishable and swimmable'. Under this legislation, 127 priority pollutants (metals and organic chemicals) are identified and limits set for their concentrations in wastewater treatment plant effluent and in the lakes and rivers which receive those discharges. All wastewater treatment facilities are required to get a permit which specifies the quality of the treated wastewater that they discharge to the environment.

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