New Legislation Would End Study of Safe Arsenic Levels for Drinking Water



DATE: July 27, 2001

BACKGROUND: President Bush has asked the National Academies of Science to take nine months to determine the safe level of arsenic in drinking water. His intention is to use the information for setting the new arsenic standard that will go into effect in 2006. Congressman David Bonior of Michigan (D) has introduced an amendment, H.R. 1413, that would arbitrarily set the new standard at 10 parts per billion - months before the NAS report is due.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: President Bush is right to insist that a decision on maximum arsenic levels in water be based on sound science and he is right to not make decisions arbitrarily for political purposes.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: It is foolish and dangerous to introduce legislation to arbitrarily set the maximum arsenic levels in water when, in a few months ,we will have sound scientific information for setting this number. It is important to base this environmental decision on sound science and not politics. If we set the level too high, Americans will be at risk; too low and many municipal and private water companies will be forced out of business, causing Americans to rely on more risky personal wells.

DISCUSSION: Many environmental groups and their allies have attacked the administration for delaying implementation of a new arsenic standard for drinking water, a standard which was put into place by the Clinton administration hours before leaving office.


After 25 years of study by various administations, the Clinton administration set the permitted level of arsenic at 10 parts per billion, down from the current 50 - without asking the National Academies of Science precisely what the new level should be. Further, the new regulation set forth by the Clinton administration would not have gone into effect until the year 2006.

Under President Bush's order, the new maximum arsenic level standard will still go into effect in 2006. Mr. Bush has simply asked the NAS to take nine months to tell him precisely what that new level should be so the Bush administration can make certain that the new standard protects the greatest number of Americans the most efficiently and effectively as possible.

by Tom Randall, Director of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs, The National Center for Public Policy Research

Contact the author at: 773-857-5086 or
The National Center for Public Policy Research, Chicago office
3712 N. Broadway - PMB 279
Chicago, IL 60613



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