(1) The director, with the approval of the council, may authorize variances or exemptions from the drinking water standards issued pursuant to section 71-5302 under conditions and in such manner as they deem necessary and desirable. Such variances or exemptions shall be permitted under conditions and in a manner which are not less stringent than the conditions under, and the manner in which, variances and exemptions may be granted under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act as the act existed on July 20, 2002.
(2) Prior to granting a variance or an exemption, the director shall provide notice, in a newspaper of general circulation serving the area served by the public water system, of the proposed exemption or variance and that interested persons may request a public hearing on the proposed exemption or variance. The director may require the system to provide other appropriate notice necessary to provide adequate notice to persons served by the system.
If a public hearing is requested, the director shall set a time and place for the hearing and such hearing shall be held before the department prior to the variance or exemption being issued. Frivolous and insubstantial requests for a hearing may be denied by the director. An exemption or variance shall be conditioned on monitoring, testing, analyzing, or other requirements to insure the protection of the public health. A variance or an exemption granted shall include a schedule of compliance under which the public water system is required to meet each contaminant level or treatment technique requirement for which a variance or an exemption is granted within a reasonable time as specified by the director with the approval of the council.