An official website of the United States government.

This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2021. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. More information »

Learn about Decontamination for Drinking Water and Wastewater Utilities

On this page:

What is decontamination?

Decontamination is the inactivation or reduction of contaminants from surfaces by physical, chemical, or other methods to meet a cleanup goal. Decontamination does not include the treatment of contaminated water or wastewater. Decontamination happens after confirming the contamination and before returning the system to service. Decontamination is part of "Remediation and Cleanup" following an incident.  


Handling contaminated water

Contamination emergencies at utilities may occur naturally or by man-made causes. Manmade causes may be accidental or intentional. During a contamination incident, utilities will have to handle contaminated water properly. This may include:

  • Isolating and treating contaminated water
  • Storing treated water and decontaminated infrastructure components ""Contaminated Water Pipe

Access our guide to find out how to handle contaminated water: Containment and Disposal Guide  

Learn the decontamination strategy

Learn more about the resources being developed to help drinking water and wastewater facilities in the following areas with the Progress on Water Sector Decontamination Recommendations & Proposed Strategic Plan:

  • Providing guidance regarding decontamination  
  • Containment and disposal of contaminated water
  • Developed planning documents to facilitate preparation and response to a contamination event
  • Evaluated results from studies on the persistence of target contaminants in water systems and the efficacy of treatment technologies and protocols
  • Developed Web-based resources
  • Conducted decontamination-specific training