Arsenic standards vote sends Bush a message

Outside editorial

Posted: Friday, August 03, 2001

The following editorial appeared in Wednesday's Miami Herald:

When the Republican-led House of Representatives voted 218-189 last week to uphold a Clinton-era rule on tougher standards to reduce arsenic in drinking water, the message to the White House was simple: Put the public's health first.

In March EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman delayed imposing the new standards in order to study the evidence that supports reducing arsenic in the nation's drinking water. That didn't sit well with some House Republicans, though Ms. Whitman promised to decide in time to meet the original 2006 deadline for putting new standards in place.

The House voted for a standard that would lower the permissible level of arsenic in drinking water to 10 parts per billion from the current 50 parts per billion, which has been the rule since 1942. The National Academy of Sciences recommended speedy arsenic reductions in 1999. Arsenic can occur naturally in water. It can cause some forms of cancer.

It will be costly for smaller communities to meet the new standard, but that's not an insurmountable problem when it comes to people's health. The Senate should follow the House's lead and make the Bush administration's EPA do its job.

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