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EPA ANNOUNCES ARSENIC STANDARD FOR DRINKING WATER OF 10 PARTS PER BILLION

Release Date: 10/31/2001
Contact Information:

Also available in Spanish: "LA AGENCIA DE PROTECCION AMBIENTAL ANUNCIA LA REGLA FIJA PARA ARSENICO EN AGUA POTABLE DE 10 PARTES POR BILLONES"


Environmental News

FOR RELEASE: WEDNESDAY, OCT. 31, 2001

EPA ANNOUNCES ARSENIC STANDARD
FOR DRINKING WATER OF 10 PARTS PER BILLION

Robin Woods 202-564-7841 / woods.robin@epa.gov



U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman today announced that the arsenic standard in drinking water will be 10 parts per billion (ppb). “Throughout this process, I have made it clear that EPA intends to strengthen the standard for arsenic by substantially lowering the maximum acceptable level from 50 parts per billion (ppb), which has been the lawful limit for nearly half a century,” Whitman wrote in a letter to the conferees on the Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development and Independent Agencies appropriations measure.

“The Bush Administration is committed to protecting the environment and the health of all Americans,” Whitman said. “This standard will improve the safety of drinking water for millions of Americans, and better protect against the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.”

When the Administrator initiated review of the standard for arsenic, there were indications that additional information was available that had not been considered previously. She asked for time to look at the new science and data that have come to light since the original (1999) study by the National Academy of Sciences on this matter. Whitman also asked that three expert panels review all the new and existing materials. The National Academy of Sciences looked at risk, the National Drinking Water Advisory Council examined costs to water systems throughout the nation and EPA’s Science Advisory Board assessed benefits.

Whitman today reiterated that the additional study and consultation have not delayed the compliance date for implementing a new standard for arsenic in 2006. “Instead it has reinforced the basis for the decision,” said Whitman. “I said in April that we would obtain the necessary scientific and cost review to ensure a standard that fully protects the health of all Americans, we did that, and we are reassured by all of the data that significant reductions are necessary. As required by the Safe Drinking Water Act, a standard of 10 ppb protects public health based on the best available science and ensures that the cost of the standard is achievable.”

Nearly 97 percent of the water systems affected by this rule are small systems that serve less than 10,000 people each. EPA plans to provide $20 million over the next two years for the research and development of more cost-effective technologies. The Agency also will provide technical assistance and training to operators of small systems, which will reduce their compliance costs, Whitman told conferees. EPA will work with small communities to maximize grants and loans under current State Revolving Fund and Rural Utilities Service programs of the Department of Agriculture. Last year EPA provided more than $600 million in grants and loans to water systems for drinking water compliance. “Our goal is to provide clean, safe, and affordable drinking water to all Americans,” said Whitman.

The letter to appropriations conferees is attached.

R-219 ###
__________________________________________________________________________


October 31, 2001
The Honorable C.W. Bill Young
Chairman, Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

As you know, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been conducting a thorough review of the appropriate standard for arsenic in drinking water, based upon the best available science. Throughout this process, I have made it clear that EPA intends to strengthen the standard for arsenic by substantially lowering the maximum acceptable level from 50 parts per billion (ppb), which has been the lawful limit for nearly half a century.

I can now report that the drinking water standard for arsenic will be 10 ppb, and we will maintain the compliance date of 2006. This standard will improve the safety of drinking water for millions of Americans, and better protect against the risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

As required by the Safe Drinking Water Act, a standard of 10 ppb protects public health based on the best available science and ensures that the cost of the standard is achievable. Over the past several months, we have had the benefit of insight provided by national experts who conducted three new independent scientific studies – the National Academy of Sciences, the National Drinking Water Advisory Council, and EPA’s Science Advisory Board. In addition, we have received more than 55,000 comments from the public.

Nearly 97 percent of the water systems affected by this rule are small systems that serve fewer than 10,000 people each. I recognize the challenges many small systems will face in complying with this standard, given their higher per capita costs. Therefore I am committed to working closely with states and small water systems to identify ways to reduce arsenic levels at a reasonable cost to ratepayers.

EPA plans to provide $20 million over the next two years for research and development of more cost-effective technologies to help small systems to meet the new standard. EPA will also provide technical assistance and training to operators of small systems, which will reduce
their compliance costs. EPA will work with small communities to maximize grants and loans under the existing State Revolving Fund and Rural Utilities Service programs of the Department of Agriculture. Finally, I have directed my staff to identify other ways that we may help smaller water systems reduce arsenic levels at a reasonable cost. Our goal is to provide clean, safe, and affordable drinking water to all Americans.

I look forward to working with Congress; my colleagues in the Administration; state, local and tribal governments; and other interested parties as we move forward with this protective standard. It’s not enough just to set the right standard – we want to work with local communities to help them meet it. Working together, we can ensure the continuing viability of small, rural water systems, and meet our common goal of improving water quality and protecting public health.



Christine Todd Whitman