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LAWMAKERS TAKE ON ARSENIC STANDARD
House passes bill with 10-ppb ceiling for drinking water rule
The House of Representatives waded into the debate over the amount of arsenic that should be allowed in drinking water and came out siding with the Clinton Administration's 10-ppb standard.
The Republican-controlled House late last month attached an amendment to a fiscal-year 2002 spending bill that would forbid EPA from setting an arsenic standard higher than 10 ppb.
The Bush Administration in March suspended the 10-ppb standard for arsenic set in January by the previous administration. EPA is now reassessing the rule and plans to issue a new arsenic standard of between 3 and 20 ppb by February 2002. Meanwhile, the nation's drinking water standard for arsenic remains at 50 ppb, a level set in 1942.
Sponsored by Democratic Whip David E. Bonior (D-Mich.), the amendment was approved 218 to 189. In the vote, 19 Republicans, mainly from the Northeast, sided with 198 Democrats and one independent in favor of it. H.R. 2620, the bill the provision was attached to, passed the House on a vote of 336 to 89. Opposing Bonior's amendment were legislators from western states with naturally occurring high concentrations of arsenic in groundwater.
It remains to be seen whether the Democrat-controlled Senate will include the provision in its version of the EPA spending bill.
The amendment would cut off funding for any EPA effort to raise the drinking water standard above 10 ppb. Bonior says the bill would not prevent EPA from setting a standard below 10 ppb.
Erik D. Olson, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the vote "sends a clear, bipartisan message to President Bush: The American public doesn't want people messing around with their drinking water."
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