ASDWA asks EPA to clear up confusion on Arsenic Rule

Aug. 21, 2002
The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) has asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clear up some confusion on the new Arsenic Standard.

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August 21, 2002 -- The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) has asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clear up some confusion on the new Arsenic Standard.

EPA on Jan. 22, 2001 released the Arsenic Rule (66 FR 6976), requiring a maximum of 0.01 mg/L in drinking water systems. But EPA's review in the summer of 2001 stated that the number was 0.010 mg/L.

At first glance, the two numbers look exactly the same, ASDWA Executive Director Vanessa M. Leiby wrote in an open letter to EPA Administrator Christine T. Whitman. However, because of number rounding conventions established in 1981 by EPA, the effect of the missing zero from the January 2001 rule will be to allow water systems to be compliant with arsenic levels between 10 and 15 ppb.

The lack of the extra digit is a problem because many states adopt rules by reference, or have laws that keep them from adopting regulations that are more stringent than the federal standard. Many states have been advised by their attorney general that they cannot adopt and enforce a standard other than 0.01 mg/L, Leiby wrote.

"Although the agency did attempt to correct this problem by issuing guidance, the logic was not consistent with the agency's April 6, 1981 memo on standard rounding practices," Leiby wrote. "More importantly, guidance cannot be used in place of regulation. This confusion surrounding the arsenic MCL has the potential to generate a number of lawsuits at the state and possibly federal level."

ASDWA asked EPA to enter a correction for the Arsenic Rule into the Federal Register, or to accept that some water systems with levels of 15 ppb are still in compliance.

Source: ASDWA. For more information, visit ASDWA's web site at http://www.asdwa.org/, or EPA's Arsenic page at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/arsenic.html.

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