Report: DEP to hire 33 staff after EPA slammed it for escalating drinking water violations
The state Department of Environmental Protection plans to add 33 new positions to enforce state drinking water standards after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency slammed the state last year for allowing drinking water violations to escalate.
Last month, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration vowed to address an EPA letter dated Dec. 30 warning the state that it has an inadequate size staff to enforce drinking water violations, according to the media site StateImpact Pennsylvania.
The number of unaddressed violations in the state has nearly doubled, from 4,298 to 7,922, in the last five years, according to the letter.
“This increased risk to public health is a concern to EPA,” the Dec. 30 letter stated.
On Thursday, DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell told the state Senate Appropriations Committee this his agency is hiring additional staff “move aggressively” to correct the deficiencies the EPA identified in the state Safe Drinking Water Program, according to the Pennsylvania Environment Daily Blog.
The agency plans to soon finalize new fee increases to pay for the additional manpower including a new annual fee for all public water systems based on its number of customers and an increase to the one-time permit fees for new water systems, according to the environmental blog.
The fee increase will pay for about 33 new positions, including 17 more field inspectors.
DEP plans to bring new staff onboard now, which is a more aggressive schedule than originally anticipated, according to the environmental blog.
Years of budget cuts have cost DEP a quarter of its staff, according to StateImpact Pennsylvania, a project of the radio stations WITF-FM in Harrisburg and WHYY-FM in Philadelphia.