EPA lowers acceptable level of arsenic in drinking water

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a new arsenic standard for drinking water at 10 parts per billion, which is intended to protect an additional 13 million Americans.


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The level has been reduced from the current 50 parts per billion of arsenic, and will effect all 54,000 community water systems, with 3,000 systems expected to need corrective action. The standard will also apply for the first time to 20,000 water systems that supply people only part of the time, such as schools, churches and factories. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommended in March 1999 that the EPA should lower the arsenic standard as soon as possible, following a review of updated scientific data.

Water systems in western states and parts of the Midwest and New England that depend on underground sources of drinking water –where arsenic is found in higher concentrations than in surface waters, will be affected most by the new standard, says the EPA.

“Today, I am pleased that this Administration is taking further action to improve the quality of our drinking water by strengthening the drinking water standard for arsenic,” said out-going President Bill Clinton, following the announcement of the new level. “This new drinking water standard will provide additional public health protections for 13 million Americans, including protections from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other health problems.”

Financial and technical assistance is being provided to small systems in order to address the costs of this new rule.

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