Today I am pleased to sign into law S. 1316, the "Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996." This Act will provide the American people with much greater protection for the drinking water on which we all rely every day of our lives.
Safe drinking water is the American people's first line of defense for public health. In 1993, my Administration called for reinvention of safe drinking water law to improve public health protection. This Act achieves this objective by following the basic principles we articulated. It balances responsible regulatory improvements with common-sense measures to help States and water systems prevent drinking water contamination problems in the first place. It also authorizes for the first time the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds that I first proposed in 1993. These Funds will provide the resources for drinking water infrastructure that will help hundreds of communities to protect their people from harmful contaminants.
Regrettably, the Congress failed to pass this legislation prior to the August 1 deadline, so the $725 million of previously appropriated funds are no longer available for the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds and have been transferred to the Clean Water Program. I urge the Congress to act promptly to correct this problem and to restore these monies to the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds as soon as possible.
The Act is in several respects a model for responsible reinvention of regulations. It replaces an inflexible approach with the authority to act on contaminants of greatest risk and to analyze costs and benefits, while retaining public health as the paramount value. It embraces principles of pollution prevention and a cost-effective, community-based approach for ensuring drinking water safety. It affirms the right of all Americans to know about the quality of their drinking water and the potential threats to its safety.
The consensus that has been achieved on this Act shows how strong protection of the health and environment of the American people can be achieved through partnerships with State and local governments and affected communities. The result achieved today by the Administration and Congress will give the American people confidence for years to come in the safety of their drinking water.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON