Bush administration's withdrawal of arsenic rule may fly in face of consumer concerns

Yesterday, the Bush administration rescinded the EPA's new 10 ppb arsenic limit in drinking water — itself an 80% reduction from the previous 50 ppb standard.

LISLE, Ill., March 22, 2001 (PRNewswire) — Yesterday, the Bush administration rescinded the EPA's new 10 ppb arsenic limit in drinking water — itself an 80% reduction from the previous 50 ppb standard.

This decision comes in spite of the fact that, according to the 2001 National Water Quality Consumer Survey (a biennial report sponsored by the Water Quality Association), 49 percent of Americans believe federal drinking water laws are not strict enough (up from 40 percent in 1999) and more than 60 percent of adults interviewed would pay more on their utility bills or on home water treatment to reduce arsenic if it was found to contaminate their water. (The new WQA survey was conducted in February, 2001.)

"Arsenic is a known carcinogen. As such, the maximum contaminant level goal — that is, the level at which no health risk is known to occur — is zero. Yet, the EPA, after l0 years of debate, is letting a maximum contaminant level of 50 ppb stand in order to weigh the costs of industrial and utility compliance against human health risks," said Carlyn Meyer, Water Quality Association Public Affairs Director. "Research shows that consumers want more — not less — protection against drinking water contaminants," Meyer added.

The new arsenic rule was intended to update an arsenic standard that has been in effect for nearly 60 years. The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act (passed by a large bi-partisan majority in Congress) mandated that the EPA set new arsenic rules for drinking water by June, 2001. The EPA's new standards had followed a 1999 National Academy of Sciences report which found arsenic in drinking water can cause bladder, lung and skin cancer and might cause kidney and liver cancer.

"The debate concerning the cost to remove arsenic from our drinking water is ill-founded. No one should have to fear arsenic contamination because the cost of treatment is too expensive," said Joseph Harrison, P.E., WQA Technical Director and former director of the EPA's Office of Drinking Water and Groundwater (Region V).

"The fact is — certain home water treatment technologies are effective, efficient and economical for reducing arsenic to near zero. That fact is widely known within and outside the EPA," Harrison said. In fact, WQA is working with utilities to develop low-cost treatment options for small community systems — those most affected by arsenic contamination. "The public shouldn't have to trade its health and welfare for dollars and cents," he added.

SOURCE Water Quality Association

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