Safe Drinking Water Act
California's Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 is “right-to-know” type legislation that was drafted by David Roe of Environmental Defense. Well, at least, Mr. Roe was the principle drafter of the legislation. There is a great website for the organization that has a page that helps give a good understanding of the proposition and the issues surrounding it.
This proposition was passed overwhelmingly by the California people in ’86 (63% for and 37% against). Although improvements and changes have occurred since its original passage the Act was rather simple originally. Toxic chemicals were being treated by the government as not harmful to the community until it was proven harmful. The Act outlined that the governor would be required to establish a known toxic chemical list that would be banned from being discharged into sources of drinking water. “Clear and reasonable” warnings were required by those who possibly could be the cause of exposures to the chemicals and in order obtain an exemption from the ban or warning the burden of proof lay on the companies to show that “no significant risk” was introduced. Interestingly, no government agency was assigned the implementation. It was merely left to “citizen suits” for enforcement.
The Act was an attempt to apply a market-based strategy to the control of toxic chemicals rather than a traditional command-and-control approach and has been successful in the reduction of many carcinogens previously found in California drinking water. It has been said that at the time it was a revolutionary concept and since other legislation has passed that is similar.