Water Quality Division: Safe Drinking Water: Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the final Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR) in the Federal Register on April 15, 2013 (78 FR 10269).

Why was the Total Coliform Rule revised?

The 1989 Total Coliform Rule (TCR) was updated and re-introduced as the RTCR. The RTCR uses total coliform as an indicator of system operation and condition rather than an immediate public health concern, and uses E. coli as a fecal indicator.

The purpose of the RTCR is to improve public health protection by reducing the pathways through which fecal contamination and pathogens can enter the distribution system. The objectives are to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment (if applicable), determine the integrity of the distribution system, and signal the possible presence of microbial contamination.

What action does a PWS have to take?

Beginning April 1, 2016, all PWSs must comply with all applicable requirements as contained in Subpart Y of 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 141.851 through 141.861.

What are the monitoring frequencies and number of routine samples required?

PWSs will continue to monitor in compliance with their existing TCR monitoring schedule.

Frequency

All systems will continue to monitor on a monthly basis until otherwise notified. Systems serving less than 1,000 people using only ground water may qualify to monitor on a frequency less often than monthly. A system allowed to monitor on a frequency less often than monthly will be notified in writing following the next regularly scheduled sanitary survey conducted on, or after, April 1, 2016. PWSs must continue to monitor on the current/existing TCR frequency until otherwise directed.

Number of routine samples:

The minimum number of routine samples required is based upon the population served and the population intervals remain unchanged from the TCR. PWSs should remain aware of changes in their population to determine if those changes result in any increase or decrease in the number of monthly samples required.

How many repeat samples must be collected in a set, following a positive sample?

All PWSs will now be required to collect repeats in sets of three (3) samples. The default is to collect one (1) repeat sample at each of these three (3) locations:

  • At the original ROUTINE site that was positive and;
  • Within five (5) service connections upstream from the ROUTINE location that was positive and;
  • Within five (5) service connections downstream from the ROUTINE location that was positive

Will systems be eligible for reduced monitoring?

A small number of systems may qualify to collect monitoring samples less frequently than monthly. To qualify, a system must serve less than 1,000 people, use only groundwater, have had no sanitary defects at their last inspection and have no violations within the past 12 months. Non-community PWSs must also have an annual state site visit or yearly sanitary survey (a Level 2 inspection – see below – may qualify) and continually maintain a certified operator.

Will the PWS use their existing Microbiological Sample Siting Plan (MSSP)?

All PWSs must have a microbiological sample siting plan (MSSP) that complies with the RTCR available for regulatory agency review no later than April 1, 2016, and it must include all routine, repeat and ground water well source sampling locations (if the PWS is subject to the Ground Water Rule (GWR)).

If the PWS meets one of three criteria listed in the next section, the PWS will need to send the MSSP to their regulator for review by January 15, 2016.

Which PWSs will be required to submit the MSSP for review?

PWSs that meet any of the following three criteria must submit a MSSP for review to their regulatory agency:

  1. Elects to have alternate repeat monitoring locations. The RTCR does not require regulatory agency approval of the alternate sampling locations before use by the PWS.
  2. Chooses to have dual-purpose samples under the GWR and RTCR. The RTCR requires written approval of the MSSPs prior to use by the PWS.
  3. A seasonal system monitoring less frequently than monthly. The RTCR requires written approval of the MSSPs prior to use by the PWS.

For more information on these three criteria, refer to the RTCR MSSP Notice of Intent form.

What is the deadline for the PWS to submit the MSSP for review?

If a PWS meets one or more of the three criteria listed above, the PWS will need to send the MSSP to their regulator for review by January 15, 2016.

If a PWS does not meet one of the three criteria above, the PWS still must update the MSSP by March 31, 2016; however, the MSSP should NOT be submitted to the regulatory agency and instead must be available on request and kept onsite at all times.

Do I have to notify anyone if I do not meet one of the three criteria?

All systems should complete the RTCR MSSP Notice of Intent form and return to ADEQ’s Phoenix office by December 15th, 2015. ADEQ must update the database for approximately 1550 public water systems prior to the April 1, 2016 compliance date. Returning the form will allow ADEQ to have the database ready for the transition.

The RTCR MSSP Notice of Intent form is not the same as a MSSP – PWSs are letting ADEQ know if they are required to send in a MSSP prior to the RTCR or if they are going to keep it onsite for review at the next inspection. A hard copy of the form was sent to all PWSs as an enclosure with the RTCR Notification Letter on November 4, 2015. Alternatively, systems can download the form in a fillable PDF format: RTCR MSSP Notice of Intent. The RTCR MSSP Notice of Intent form can be submitted by email to [email protected], by fax to 602-771-4634, or by mail to:

Drinking Water Monitoring and Protection Unit
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
1110 W. Washington St., Mail Code 5415 B-2
Phoenix, AZ 85007

What are assessments and when are they required?

The RTCR introduced a new approach to PWS health whereby PWSs are required to conduct a Level 1 or Level 2 assessment when certain conditions occur in their system. If any “sanitary defects” are found the PWS must correct them within a required timeframe. Assessments enhance public health protection by identifying the presence of sanitary defects that allow the entrance of contamination into the system.

The requirement to conduct an assessment is triggered by any of the following:

Level 1 Assessment Triggers:

  • For a system collecting 40 samples or more per month, more than 5.0% of samples collected are total coliform positive
  • For a system collecting fewer than 40 samples per month, two (2) or more samples are total coliform positive
  • Failure to take every required repeat sample after any single routine total coliform positive

Level 2 Assessment Triggers:

  • E. coli MCL violation
  • Two Level 1 triggers in a rolling 12-month period

Assessments must be performed, sanitary defects identified and fixed (referred to as “find and fix”), and the completed assessment form submitted to the regulatory agency all within 30 days of the trigger.

Where can PWSs find additional information on the RTCR?

Additional information on the RTCR may be found on EPA’s website at the following link: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/tcr/regulation_revisions.cfm

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers - Coming Soon!

RTCR Microbiological Sample Siting Plan (MSSP) Guidance Documents and Forms

  • RTCR MSSP Notice of Intent (Return form to ADEQ by 12/15/15) -- (PDF)
  • ADEQ or Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) regulated systems: RTCR MSSP Template for PWSs serving 1000 or fewer -- (PDF)(Word)
  • ADEQ or Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) regulated systems: RTCR MSSP Template for PWSs serving 1001 or more -- (PDF)(Word)
  • Maricopa County Environmental Services Department (MCESD) regulated systems: RTCR MSSP template for PWSs serving 1000 or fewer -- (PDF)(Word)
  • Maricopa County Environmental Services Department (MCESD) regulated systems: RTCR MSSP Template for PWSs serving 1001 or more -- (PDF)(Word)

Other RTCR Guidance Documents and Forms

  • EPA Quick Reference Guide - Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR) (September 2013) -- (PDF)
  • RTCR Fact Sheet: Requirements for Small Systems on Monthly Monitoring -- (PDF)
  • RTCR Fact Sheet: Requirements for Small Systems on Quarterly/ Annual Monitoring --(PDF)
  • RTCR Fact Sheet: Repeat Monitoring Requirements for Small Systems -- (PDF)
  • RTCR Fact Sheet: Level 1 & Level 2 Assessments and Corrective Actions -- (PDF)
  • RTCR Fact Sheet: Requirements for Seasonal Systems -- (PDF)
  • RTCR Seasonal Start-Up Procedures Certification Form -- (PDF)
  • Engineering Bulletin 8 - Disinfection of Water Systems -- (PDF)
  • RTCR guidance checklist for systems serving 1000 people or less -- (PDF)
  • RTCR guidance checklist for systems serving more than 1000 people and collecting less than 40 samples (that is combined total of all ROUTINE and REPEAT compliance samples) -- (PDF)
  • RTCR guidance checklist for systems serving more than 1000 people and collecting 40 or more samples (that is combined total of all ROUTINE and REPEAT compliance samples) -- (PDF)
  • RTCR Level 1 Assessment Form -- (PDF)
  • RTCR Level 2 Assessment Form -- (PDF)
  • RTCR Drinking Water Analytical Report (DWAR 1R) -- (PDF)
  • GWR Drinking Water Analytical Report (DWAR 1-GR) -- (PDF)

RTCR New Reporting Requirements

PWSs with either an E. coli positive routine or an E. coli MCL must notify the regulatory agency by the end of the same business day (5 pm), or no later than the end of the next business day if it was after 5 pm when they were notified.

We suggest that the PWS call and follow up with an e-mail if possible to ensure they have documentation of the notification, and request that they also notify ADEQ if they are a MCESD or PDEQ regulated system.

Regulating Agency Contact Information:

ADEQ by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone:

  • Janell Goatson 602-771-4572
  • Donna Calderon 602-771-4641
  • Dave Dunaway 602-771-6403

MCESD regulated PWSs please notify by phone (602-506-6935) or by e-mail at [email protected], and notify ADEQ.

PDEQ regulated PWSs please notify by phone (520-724-7400), and notify ADEQ.

Situations Requiring Public Notice Under the RTCR

Public Water Systems (PWSs) must submit this signed Certificate of Public Notice Distribution and provide a copy of each public notice within ten (10) days of the date distributed to customers. PWSs should consult with their regulatory agency or the ADEQ Rule Specialists for appropriate methods of public notice.

Tier 1 Public Notice (Immediate Notice, within 24 hours)

Under the RTCR, the system will incur a MCL violation for E. coli, if the system (40 CFR 141.63(c)):

  • Has an E. coli-positive repeat sample following a total coliform-positive routine sample
  • Has a total coliform-positive repeat sample following an E. coli-positive routine sample
  • Fails to take all required repeat samples following an E. coli-positive routine sample
  • Fails to test for E. coli when any repeat sample tests positive for total coliform

Under the RTCR, a system is required to publish Tier 1 PN when it has an E. coli MCL violation. In addition, the system will continue to be required to notify the state after learning of an E. coli-positive sample, as required under the 1989 TCR (40 CFR 141.202(a)). An E. coli MCL violation indicates possible exposure to pathogens in drinking water that can possibly result in serious, acute health effects, such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms and possible greater health risks for infants, young children, the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems.

Systems required to issue a Tier 1 PN must do so within 24 hours of learning of the violation. Systems must consult with the primacy agency within 24 hours (40 CFR 141.202(b)).

Acceptable forms of delivery also remain the same as under the 1989 TCR (40 CFR 141.202(c)):

  • Appropriate broadcast media (such as radio and television);
  • Posting of the notice in conspicuous locations throughout the area served by the water system;
  • Hand delivery of the notice to people served by the water system; or
  • Another delivery method approved in writing by the primacy agency

Tier 1 Public Notice Template - E. coli MCL violation (Word) Public notice templates will be loaded once they are available from EPA.

Tier 2 Public Notice (Notice as Soon as Practical, within 30 days)

In general, Tier 2 PN is required for all NPDWR violations and situations with potential to have serious adverse effects on human health not requiring Tier 1 PN. The system must provide public notice as soon as practical, but no later than 30 days after the system learns of the violation (40 CFR 141.203(b)(1)).

Under the RTCR:

  • The monthly MCL violation is no longer applicable. If the PWS incurs an E. coli MCL violation they are required to issue a public notice that meets the Tier 1 PN requirements (40 CFR 141.202(a)).
  • Systems that fail to conduct a required level 1 or level 2 assessment or fail to complete the required corrective action incur a TT violation (40 CFR 141.860(b)(1)). This TT violation requires the system to issue a public notice that meets the Tier 2 PN requirements (40 CFR 141.203(a)).

The system must repeat the notice every 3 months that the situation persists unless the state decides a different frequency is needed. States must not reduce the frequency of PN to less than once per year (40 CFR 141.203(b)(2)). CWSs that have TT violations must also place information about the violation in the year's CCR.

Tier 2 Public Notice Template – Treatment Technique Violations (Word) Public notice templates will be loaded once they are available from EPA.

Tier 3 Public Notice (Annual Notice or Consumer Confidence Report)

Monitoring violations require a PWS to issue public notice that meets the Tier 3 PN requirements (40 CFR 141.204)). These include:

  • Failure to take every required routine or additional routine sample in a compliance period (40 CFR 141.860(c)(2)).
  • Failure to analyze for E. coli following a total coliform-positive routine sample (40 CFR 141.860(c)(2)).

Certain reporting violations require Tier 3 PN. Tier 3 public notice is not required for other RTCR reporting violations, unless designated by the state. Tier 3 PN is required for:

  • Failure to submit a monitoring report or completed assessment form after monitoring or conducting assessment correctly/timely (40 CFR 141.860(d)(1)).
  • Failure to notify the state following an E. coli-positive sample (40 CFR 141.860(d)(2)).
  • Failure to submit certification of completion of state-approved start-up procedure by a seasonal system (40 CFR 141.860(d)(3)).

Systems required to issue a Tier 3 PN must do so within one year of learning of the violation. The system must repeat the notice annually as long as the situation persists (40 CFR 141.204(b)(1) & (2)). Violations resulting in Tier 3 PN requirements can be included in the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) (40 CFR 141.204(d) if:

  • The CCR is provided to people served no later than 12 months after the system learns of the violation or situation.
  • The Tier 3 notice contained in the CCR follows the content requirements of the public notice (40 CFR 141.205).
  • The CCR is distributed following Tier 3 PN delivery requirements (40 CFR 141.204(c)).

Tier 3 Public Notice Template - (Word) Public notice templates will be loaded once they are available from EPA.