Public water systems face compliance date for new federal arsenic standard

New federal drinking water standards designed to lower the levels of arsenic in drinking water, take effect Jan. 23, stresses Pa. Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty, lowering the maximum contaminant level allowed from 50 ppb to 10 ppb...

HARRISBURG, PA, Oct. 17, 2005 (PRNewswire) -- New federal drinking water standards designed to lower the levels of arsenic in drinking water, take effect Jan. 23, 2006, for Pennsylvania's public water systems, Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty said.

The federal law lowers the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for arsenic from 0.050 milligrams per liter (mg/L), or 50 parts per billion, to 0.010 mg/L, or 10 parts per billion.

"The department has been working aggressively to make sure drinking water suppliers understand the federal requirements and have in place the mechanisms they need to meet the new standard," McGinty said. "Ensuring a smooth transition will strengthen public confidence in the systems that supply our public drinking water."

DEP's outreach efforts have been ongoing for years as the new standards were being developed and finalized.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted the new standard for arsenic in drinking water Jan. 22, 2001. The rule became effective Feb. 22, 2002. The date by which systems must begin complying with the new standard is Jan. 23, 2006. DEP incorporates by reference federal MCLs as state MCLs, making them applicable here.

DEP has been working with community water suppliers and nontransient, noncommunity public water suppliers -- those that serve water to at least 25 of the same people for more than six months in a year, but not year-round -- to help bring their operations into compliance ahead of the effective date.

The department sent letters to all public water system operators in July informing them of the change, and DEP staff members have been in direct contact with systems identified as having arsenic levels above 0.010 mg/L in past monitoring. According to historical information, about 90 of a total of 3,340 systems (or about 3%) have arsenic levels above 0.010 mg/L.

Efforts were made to inform these systems about various grants and other programs available to offset the costs of installing treatment, such as DEP's Growing Greener grants for innovative technologies and the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Development Authority's funding, and about EPA's Arsenic Treatment Technology Research Demonstrations and Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) Program.

Initial compliance monitoring for arsenic will begin after the Jan. 23 effective date for the new MCL. State regulations require water systems in violation of the MCL to issue public notification and conduct more frequent monitoring as interim measures until treatment is provided to reduce the arsenic levels or a new source is brought on line.

Some studies have linked long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic in drinking water to cancer of the bladder and lungs. Short-term exposure to high doses of arsenic can cause other adverse health effects, but such effects are unlikely to occur from Pennsylvania's public water supplies that are in compliance with the existing arsenic standard of 0.050 mg/L.

EPA set the current standard of 0.050 mg/L in 1975, based on a Public Health Service standard originally established in 1942. A March 1999 report by the National Academy of Sciences concluded standards should be strengthened further to protect public health.

Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soil, water, air, plants and animals. It can be released into the environment through natural activities such as volcanic action, erosion of rocks and forest fires, or through human activities.

For more information on the new rule, visit DEP's Web site at www.dep.state.pa.us, Keyword: "Drinking Water."

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In other Pennsylvania news:
-- "Pennsylvania announces investments of over $54M for community, economic development" -- Provides resources and support for projects that will revitalize communities and prepare sites for development that will attract new business to state -- HARRISBURG, PA, Oct. 15, 2005 -- In making seven stops in six counties, Gov. Edward G. Rendell announced more than $54 million in investments that will create and save jobs and spawn new community and business growth. These projects will have the potential of creating and saving thousands of jobs in northeast Pennsylvania...
-- "Pa. Governor's initiative to result in cleanup of 92 contaminated properties across state" -- State to work with Motiva, Pennzoil-Quaker State and Jiffy Lube to clean up underground storage tanks -- HARRISBURG, PA, Oct. 12, 2005 -- Gov. Edward G. Rendell announced the cleanup of 92 contaminated properties, mostly retail gas stations, to protect the public health and the environment. The cleanup, which will take place over the next three years, involves underground storage tanks at locations in 23 counties throughout Pennsylvania. The state will be working with Motiva Enterprises LLC, Jiffy Lube International Inc. and Pennzoil-Quaker State Co., doing business as SOPUS Products, under a consent order and cooperative multi-site agreement...

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