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EPA Agreement Means Safer Drinking Water on Amtrak Trains

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Amtrak have entered into an agreement that is aimed at making sure drinking water is safe on all passenger cars. Random monitoring of drinking water has been in place since the 1980s, now an enforceable agreement will be in place for the next five years to enhance the level of protection.

"It calls for monitoring for every train car in the system, and there are over 1,500 cars that Amtrak operates throughout the nation. It calls for improved notification to user and to the crew on the trains if a problem exists," said John Capacasa, director of the Water Protection Division of the EPA mid-Atlantic region.

There have been no spikes in water complaints, and overall instances of getting sick from water on trains are rare. But, there was a gap in regulations dealing with interstate travel. Capacasa said this is a preventive measure that was built on airline regulations for drinking water.

"This is a substantially greater drinking water protection for up to 25 million people who ride the trains over the course of a year," said Capacasa.

The agreement requires Amtrak to provide multi-level drinking water protection for all of its train operations in the U.S., including those where it provides contract services. Protections include:

  • Enhanced monitoring for pathogens, including E. coli
  • Proper disinfection and system flushing
  • Corrective action and notification when necessary
  • Timely follow-up monitoring
  • Preventive maintenance
  • Reporting and record-keeping

There are 24 Amtrak stations in Pennsylvania. Nationally, more than 78,000 passengers ride some 300 Amtrak trains every day.