Governor Tom Wolf is responding to a warning federal officials sent more a month ago, saying staffing shortages are seriously impairing the state’s abilities to enforce safe drinking water standards.
Wolf appeared caught off guard Thursday when asked by a reporter about a December 30 letter the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent to the state Department of Environmental Protection, outlining how the state’s lack of resources poses potential threats to public health.
“I’m looking into it. I have not read it yet,” Wolf said of the letter. “This administration takes the safety of the public really seriously. I will react vigorously and quickly to that.”
The EPA says Pennsylvania’s drinking water program failed to meet the federal requirements for conducting inspections of water systems, and that DEP’s lack of staffing has caused the number of unaddressed Safe Drinking Water Act violations to nearly double in the past five years, from 4,298 to 7,922.
A DEP spokesman says the department shares the EPA’s concerns and needs additional investment. The department is supposed to give an action plan about how it will address the problems to the EPA by the end of the month.