EPA Proposes Drinking Water Rules to Reduce Illness, Cancer Risks

The Environmental Protection Agency has published the long-awaited proposals for the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2) and the Stage 2 Disinfection Byproduct Rule.

Sep 1st, 2003

The Environmental Protection Agency has published the long-awaited proposals for the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2) and the Stage 2 Disinfection Byproduct Rule. The rules are designed to reduce the risk of illness from microbes and decrease cancer risks from chemicals that form during drinking water treatment.

"These drinking water rules are important steps in protecting Americans' health," said EPA Acting Administrator Linda Fisher. "These rules take the right approach toward minimizing and balancing the risks from microbial contamination and disinfection byproducts. They represent the culmination of more than a decade of analysis, research, and partnership focused on making the nation's drinking water safer."

The proposed LT2 rule requires additional treatment requirements for drinking water systems that are at higher risk for microbial contaminants. Specifically, the rule requires additional treatment by filtered systems with higher levels of Cryptosporidium in their water sources as well as by systems that do not filter surface water.

EPA estimates that full implementation of the LT2 rule will reduce cases of cryptosporidiosis by as many as 1,020,000 per year, with an associated reduction of up to 140 premature deaths. The economic benefit ranges up to $1.4 billion annually. The additional treatment required under the LT2 rule may also reduce exposure to other pathogens.

Annual costs of the LT2 rule are estimated to range from approximately $73.5 to $111 million. The average annual household cost is estimated to be $1.07 to $1.68 per year, with more than 98 percent of households experiencing annual costs of less than $12 per year. EPA's Web has additional information on the proposed LT2 rule at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lt2/index.html.

The Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule further protects public health from byproducts formed during chemical disinfection widely used by public water systems as a principal barrier to microbial pathogens in drinking water. This rule contains a risk-targeting approach to better identify monitoring sites where customers are exposed to high levels of disinfection byproducts, which have been linked both to bladder, rectal, and colon cancer and to a potential risk of reproductive and developmental health concerns.

"The Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule stresses the importance of addressing potential risks of miscarriage and fetal loss. Although the science is still uncertain, EPA must act on the weight of existing research to protect human life, and our efforts will be focused in this area in the coming years," said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water G. Tracy Mehan III said.

The Stage 2 rule is one part of the Stage 2 Microbial and Disinfection Byproducts Rules (M-DBP), which are a set of interrelated regulations that address risks from microbial pathogens and disinfectants/disinfection byproducts (D/DBPs). The Stage 2 M-DBP Rules are the final phase in the M-DBP rulemaking strategy, affirmed by Congress as part of the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

The Stage 2 DBPR focuses on public health protection by limiting exposure to DBPs, specifically total trihalomethanes (TTHM) and five haloacetic acids (HAA5), which can form in water through disinfectants used to control microbial pathogens. This rule will apply to all community water systems (CWSs) and nontransient noncommunity water systems (NTNCWSs) that add a primary or residual disinfectant other than ultraviolet (UV) light or deliver water that has been disinfected by a primary or residual disinfectant other than UV.

EPA estimates the Stage 2 Rule will reduce the incidence of bladder cancer cases by up to 182 cases per year, with an associated reduction of up to 47 premature deaths. The economic benefits from these avoided illnesses and deaths is estimated to be up to $986 million annually. EPA also expects the Stage 2 Rule to reduce fetal losses and other reproductive and developmental health effects.

The annual cost of the Stage 2 Rule is expected to be $54.3 to $63.9 million. The average annual household cost is estimated to be 51 cents per year, and more than 99 percent of households will experience annual costs of less than $12 per year. More information on the proposed Stage 2 Rule is available on EPA's Web site at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/stage2/index.html.

In other actions, EPA has concluded a Six-Year Review of 69 Drinking Water Regulations and has finalized regulatory determinations for nine contaminants on the Contaminant Candidate List. For both of these decisions, EPA's review included the best available data on health effects, analytical methods, treatment technologies, and occurrence.

For the Six-Year Review, EPA has concluded that the monitoring requirements for Total Coliform (an indicator of bacterial contamination of drinking water) should be revised. EPA also finalized determinations on nine contaminants and found that at this time it is not appropriate to develop regulations for Acanthamoeba, Aldrin, Dieldrin, Hexachlorobutadiene, Manganese, Metribuzin, Naphthalene, Sodium, and Sulfate.

Information on the Six-Year Review is available at EPA's Web site http://www.epa.gov/safewater/review.html, and the information on the Contaminant Candidate List Regulatory Determinations is available on EPA's Web site at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/ccl/cclregdetermine.html.

Security Planning Grants Target Small Water Utilities

As part of EPA's continuing efforts to help small drinking water utilities assess their vulnerabilities to terrorist attack, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water G. Tracy Mehan III has announced the award of nearly $2 million to the National Rural Water Association (NRWA). Through this grant award, NRWA will assist small community water systems serving populations between 3,300 and 10,000 people with security planning.

By June 30, 2004, these drinking water systems are required to submit vulnerability assessments to EPA under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002.

Through a combination of training sessions, on-site technical assistance, and internet based tools, the NRWA will educate system personnel about the Act and provide assistance in preparing vulnerability assessments and emergency response plans.

NRWA will assist approximately 4,400 community water systems in complying with the Act. The 4,400 systems serve between 3,300 and 10,000 people in the 48 contiguous states and the state of Alaska. For more information on EPA's water infrastructure security efforts go to: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/security/.

TRI Report Shows Decline in Chemical Release

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), the annual report on the amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment for facilities reporting in calendar year 2001. The report shows that toxic chemical releases continue to significantly decline across the United States. Total releases of chemicals nationwide decreased by 15.5 percent, or 1.05 billion pounds, from reporting year 2000 to 2001. Based on trends since the inception of TRI in 1988, chemical releases have decreased approximately 54.5 percent.

"The Toxics Release Inventory is one of the most important activities EPA completes each year. It is a tool that gives the American public information on chemical releases for their communities so that they can make informed decisions about protecting their environment," said Acting EPA Administrator Linda Fisher. "I am especially pleased that this year there are some innovative 'firsts' in the TRI, including a new mapping capability to make it easier to get information. The entire TRI database is on-line, and I encourage citizens to use our TRI Explorer tool, enter their state and county, and see the data for themselves."

Looking at all chemical releases, approximately 27 percent of chemicals were released to air, 4 percent to water, 4 percent to underground injection on- and off-site and 65 percent to land on- and off-site. For all industries, there was a decrease in releases of mercury to air by nearly 7 percent, and to water of 25.6 percent. As in previous years, releases from the metal mining industry in 2001 made up a substantial portion of all chemical releases––45 percent. However, the metal mining industry also had the largest absolute decrease, by 602.5 million pounds, a 20 percent decrease from their releases in 2000. Releases from chemical manufacturing industries accounted for 9.5 percent of all releases – about 94.7 million pounds, down 14.5 percent from 2000. About 17 percent of the releases were from electric utilities––about 98.3 million pounds––achieving an 8.5 percent decrease from 2000.

The report indicates some increases in emissions of particular chemicals, limited to a very small number of facilities, mainly due to changed reporting thresholds or one-time processes. For example, this year's report includes data that reflects a new 100 pound threshold for reporting of lead and lead compounds – previously, facilities only reported for lead if they manufactured or processed over 25,000 pounds or used over 10,000 pounds. Because of this reporting change, the total lead releases increased by 69 million pounds from 374 million pounds to 443 million pounds.

While there was a one year increase in the releases of dioxin reported to TRI, the overall long term trend is that levels of dioxin are decreasing. Three facilities accounted for almost three-quarters of all of dioxin releases in 2001. These increases in dioxin, in part due to one time maintenance at some of these facilities, were 49,714 grams for a total of 148,759 grams.

In filing reporting year 2001 chemical reports, over 10,000 TRI reporting facilities took advantage of EPA's interactive reporting software tool, called "TRI-ME" or "TRI Made Easy," which assists facilities in completing their TRI obligations by simplifying and expediting reporting and improving data quality.

The Toxics Release Inventory was established under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, and includes information on releases and other waste management for over 650 toxic chemicals and chemical categories. The data available today is based on reports from manufacturing industries, metal mines, certain coal mining activities, electrical utilities that burn coal and/or oil, hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities, chemical wholesale distributors, petroleum bulk plants and terminals and solvent recovery services.

The TRI data and background information are available to the public at www.epa.gov/tri and the TRI explorer mapping tool is available at www.epa.gov/triexplorer.

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