Effective June 1, 2016: First of Its Kind New ‘HABs Reporting Rules’ for Public Drinking Water Systems and Laboratories

Ohio is leading the nation in protecting public health and drinking water with new rules to ensure that public water systems in the state detect and treat any harmful occurrences of cyanobacteria and harmful algal blooms (HABs) in surface water sources.

Effective June 1, all public water systems that use surface water as a source will be required to monitor and report to Ohio EPA the occurrence of HABs in those sources. The new rules also establish action levels in drinking water based on federal health advisory levels. Public water systems will evaluate the effectiveness of their current HABs treatment of any surface water sources and have tools and resources on hand to keep drinking water free of cyanobacteria.

Ohio continues to see occurrences of HABs growing in lakes, reservoirs and rivers that are used as sources of public drinking water, especially when significant rainfall causes phosphorus to enter waterways. Monitoring and reporting programs for public water systems previously were voluntary. These new administrative rules will assist Ohio EPA in better understanding the extent to which HABs are occurring across the state, and ensure greater protection for customers of all public water systems that use surface water as their source. The issues addressed in the new rules include:

  • establishing microcystin action levels in drinking water based on U.S. EPA’s health advisory levels;
  • setting HAB screening, microcystin monitoring and reporting requirements for public water systems that use surface water as their source;
  • requiring public notification in cases of monitoring violations and exceedances of action levels in drinking water;
  • establishing requirements for laboratory certification, analytical techniques and reporting deadlines; and 
  • requiring public water systems to submit plans to optimize treatment if microcystins are detected in raw or finished drinking water. Additionally, some public water systems may be required to submit a plan evaluating options to address HABs including alternative sources, reservoir management and in-plant treatment technologies.

In 2015, the Agency provided educational webinars and received comments from public drinking water systems on a draft version of the rules. Based on that feedback, Ohio EPA modified the draft rules while maintaining the requirement of ongoing HAB testing data from public water systems that use surface water as a source. In early 2016, the Agency officially proposed the rules and held a public comment period. A public hearing was held on Feb. 24. The finalized rules may be viewed online at: http://epa.ohio.gov/ddagw/rules.aspx.


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972 to consolidate efforts to protect and improve air quality, water quality and waste management in Ohio. Since then, air pollutants dropped by as much as 90 percent; large rivers meeting standards improved from 21 percent to 89 percent; and hundreds of polluting, open dumps were replaced with engineered landfills and an increased emphasis on waste reduction and recycling.

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