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Enviro-Mich message from Nolan Bennett <elansingcwa@cleanwater.org>

Clean Water Action
and Clean Water Fund

Nolan Bennett, Program Coordinator	
Ph: (517) 337-4447  Fax: (517) 377-2833	

Dan Farough, Southeast Michigan Coordinator
Ph: (810) 792-8375  Fax: (810) 792-8043

January 7, 1998


Local Groups Champion Greater Public Disclosure
of Drinking Water Quality Abuses

The release of the new film A Civil Action, starring John Travolta and
Robert Duvall, is being hailed by Clean Water Action (CWA), Clean Water Fund
(CWF) and other environmental and public health groups as a rare opportunity
to call public attention to drinking water quality and protection problems.
In Michigan, CWA has undertaken a major grassroots effort to organize
citizens around the State - neighborhood by neighborhood - to fight for
better disclosure of drinking water contaminants, their sources and the need
for increased protections.

 "One critical element in preventing disasters like the one depicted in A
Civil Action is greater public involvement and disclosure on issues
affecting drinking water," says Nolan Bennett, Clean Water's Program
Coordinator. "We are committed to informing the public about new
opportunities for their involvement in critical decisions regarding their
drinking water."
The centerpiece of Clean Water's campaign focuses on educating citizens
about landmark new tools that greatly expand the public's right to know
about what's in their drinking water and provide access to information about
potential or known threats to their drinking water. 

"Sadly, A Civil Action brings home the need to have a regular form of
accountability," says Bennett.  "People have a fundamental right-to-know
what is in the water they drink and to expect that every step is being taken
to protect their water at the source and at the tap. The film dramatizes a
terrible situation that might have been avoided if the public had known
about the threats to their drinking water source."

One new right-to-know tool which consumers will begin receiving within the
next year is known as a Consumer Confidence Report. "Before Consumer
Confidence Reports, water was one of the only commodities about which
consumers had almost no regular and detailed information. Until now,
consumers could learn more about a Hostess Ho Ho than they could about their
tap water," said Bennett. 

While the group believes the upcoming Consumer Confidence Reports are a step
forward in ensuring the public's right-to-know, the group believes local
governments and water utilities can improve upon the minimum federal
requirements. One area in which the group would like to see improvement is
on reporting the health effects of contaminants on children, the elderly,
and other vulnerable groups. "One lesson that should be learned from A Civil
Action is that children have a much lower tolerance to contaminants," says
Bennett.  "The Consumer Confidence Reports should take this into account by
providing health effects information for children, the elderly, and other
vulnerable populations."  The group is also concerned that current rules
require that only water systems serving 10,000 or more people must send out
these reports, which would deny access to millions of Americans served by
public water systems. In addition, only people who receive a water bill will
get the report, which will likely prevent millions of people such as renters
who typically do not see their water bills from receiving these reports.

CWA and CWF are pushing for greater disclosure to address the critical lack
of detailed and centralized information on potential sources of
contamination to a drinking water source (lakes, rivers, or underground
aquifers). The groups believe the case depicted in A Civil Action may have
been avoided had detailed information been available on what contaminant
sources were near the city wells.  "Knowing where potential or known sources
of contamination are located can help prevent tragedies like the one in
Woburn, MA," says Bennett.

The groups have spoken with tens of thousands of citizens about drinking
water protection over the past few months and, to date, over 4,000 citizens
have written to their local officials calling for their leadership on this
issue. CWA believes A Civil Action will heighten consumer awareness about
the need for drinking water protection and their right-to-know.  

Clean Water Action (CWA), founded 26 years ago, is a national citizens'
organization working for clean, safe water, prevention of health-threatening
pollution, creation of environmentally safe jobs and businesses, and
empowerment of people to make democracy work.  Clean Water Action, with over
700,000 members and offices in 14 states and over 100,000 members in
Michigan organizes strong grassroots groups, coalitions and campaigns to
protect our environment, health, economic well-being and community quality
of life.

Clean Water Fund (CWF) is a national 501(c) (3) non-profit research and
education organization which promotes public education on water, toxics, and
natural resource issues and on related health, consumer, community, economic
and environmental problems.  CWF develops strong grassroots coalitions,
organizations and citizen leadership and enables people to plan and conduct
campaigns for changes that improve their lives.

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