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EPA ADMINISTRATOR WHITMAN ESTABLISHES PROCESS TO EVALUATE ARSENIC IN DRINKING WATER STANDARD

Release Date: 04/18/2001
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FOR RELEASE: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2001

EPA ADMINISTRATOR WHITMAN ESTABLISHES PROCESS
TO EVALUATE ARSENIC IN DRINKING WATER STANDARD

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



EPA Administrator Christie Whitman today announced that she is moving forward to put in place a protective standard to dramatically reduce levels of arsenic in drinking water. The new standard, once established, will take effect at the same time that EPA’s previous proposal was scheduled to go into place–2006.

“The Bush Administration is committed to protecting the environment and the health of all Americans,” Whitman said. “Today we are taking action to ensure that a standard will be put in place in a timely manner that provides clean, safe and affordable drinking water for the nation and is based on the best science.”

Specifically, the EPA is asking the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to perform an expedited review of a range of three to 20 parts per billion for the establishment of a new drinking water standard. The NAS is being asked to look at new studies regarding health effects that were received after the previous comment period closed and to review EPA’s risk analysis of arsenic. The NAS already has reported that the present standard of 50 parts per billion is too high, but it did not specify what a protective level should be. Consistent with this action, the Administrator has directed staff to prepare a rule proposal seeking additional public comment on this range.

“I have said consistently that we will obtain the necessary scientific review to ensure a standard that fully protects the health of all Americans, and that we will establish that standard in a timely manner,” Whitman said. “This is precisely what we are doing today.”

Additionally, as part of her independent review, the Administrator will convene a subgroup of the National Drinking Water Advisory Council to review the economic issues associated with a standard.

“Many smaller water systems and the communities they serve may have to absorb additional costs to meet the new standard,” Whitman said. “We want to make sure those costs are fair and fully justified. A new standard will not be fully protective of the health of Americans unless we make the proper plans now to ensure that all drinking water systems will be able to meet it.” She also has directed EPA staff to develop a technical assistance program.

On January 22, 2001, EPA published a standard that would have lowered the current arsenic standard, setting compliance dates in 2006. Administrator Whitman extended the January standard’s March 23 effective date for 60 days in a Federal Register notice published March 23. The Administrator took this step because of her concerns that the initial study had been rushed, and a more precise scientific review was required. Today’s proposal would extend for nine additional months, until February 22, 2002, the current May 22 effective date. Compliance dates will still be in 2006.

Additional information on the proposal and the comment period is available from EPA’s drinking water hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or on EPA’s Office of Water home page at: http://www.epa.gov/ow. Click on “What’s New.”

R-057 ###