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E-M:/ How much arsenic do you want in your drinking water?

As you are probably aware, Michigan is one of the states in which significant levels of arsenic is found in drinking water.  Therefore, I thought you might be interested to know that, at long last, the Bush Administration has opened its public comment period to learn how much arsenic the public wants in its water. The choices are:
a)    3 parts per billion (3 ppb)
b)    5 ppb
c)    10 ppb
d)    20 ppb
Details on how you can submit comments are included at the end of this posting. The public comment period opened last Thursday and the docket will remain open through October 31st.
As you might recall, the Bush Administration announced last March their withdrawal of the arsenic in drinking water standard set by the Clinton Administration. The following month, EPA Administrator Whitman announced three processes through which the agency would review the arsenic standard. These included:
1)    The National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council would establish an Arsenic Review Panel to review the new science for the very narrow range of health effects that were considered when the Clinton Administration set its arsenic standard. The Bush Administration has been harshly criticized for the make-up of the Arsenic Review Panel because: no pediatricians were appointed; inadequate representation of cancer epidemiologists; the removal of a panelist who is an internationally respected arsenic expert and epidemiologist; the appearance of conflict of interest because at least two panelists' employers are major corporations with pecuniary interest in the outcome of the review; and the lack of involvement by the public interest community and its scientists.
2)    The National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) would create an Arsenic Cost Review Working Group (on which I serve) to review the costs associated with implementing the standard at 3 parts per billion (ppb), 5 ppb, 10 ppb and 20 ppb. [I am the only public interest representative on this working group (or, for that matter, on any of the review panels), and we have now met four times. Our final meeting is August 2nd and 3rd at which time the working group's report will go to the full NDWAC, on which I also serve. The NDWAC will submit its final report to the Administrator by the end of August.]
3)    The public comment period referenced in this message.
Subsequently, the Administrator added a review panel through EPA's Science Advisory Board, which was charged with reviewing the health benefits side of the equation. Although we were pleased they eventually heeded our call to address the benefits (and not just the costs), we were subsequently disappointed in the composition of the panel. This body held its first meeting in DC last Thursday (7.19) and Friday (7.20) at the same time the cost review working group met (thus I was unable to attend the benefits meeting).
Details on the public comment period (taken from the Federal Register, Vol. 66, No. 139/ Thursday, July 19, 2001; pages 37617 - 37631):
"...SUMMARY: Today's action proposes and requests comment on a range of MCL [maximum contaminant level] options for the drinking water standard for arsenic. In particular, EPA is requesting comment on whether the data and technical analyses associated with the arsenic rule published in the January 22, 2001 Federal Register (66 FR 6976) [this is the Clinton Administration's final rule which was withdrawn by the Bush Administration] as well as any new information that may be available would support setting the enforceable arsenic standard, or MCL, at 3 [ppb] (the feasible level), 5 [ppb] (the level proposed in June 2000), 10 [ppb] (the level published in the January 2001 rule), or 20 [ppb]...."
"...DATES: Your comments on a range of arsenic MCLs from 3 [ppb] to 20 [ppb] must be in writing and either postmarked or received by EPA's Water Docket by October 31, 2001.
ADDRESSES:  You may mail your written comments to the W-99-16-VI Arsenic Comments Clerk, Water Docket (MC-4101); U.S. EPA; 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; Washington, DC  20460....Comments may be submitted electronically to <ow-docket@epa.gov>..."
For more information about any of the above, please contact me at either 231.861.0950 or 616.742.4084. You may also contact Bethany Renfer in our East Lansing office at 517.203.0754 or Jeff Surfus at 734.426.1984.
Cyndi Roper
Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund
1345 Monroe Ave., NW, Suite 216
Grand Rapids, MI  49505