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EPA sued over arsenic levels in drinking water

By Fran Lewine
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An environmental group, backed by six Democratic senators, filed suit against the Bush administration Thursday to compel it to adhere to tougher standards on arsenic in drinking water.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals by the Natural Resources Defense Council alleges the Environmental Protection Agency did not meet the June 22, 2001, deadline set by Congress to lower the acceptable level.

"The Bush EPA's suspension of the arsenic [standard] is a distressing, unscientific and illegal threat to the health of millions of Americans," Erik D. Olson, a senior attorney with the environmental group, told Reuters.

Joining in the suit as "friends of the court" were Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-California; Hillary Clinton, D-New York; Harry Reid, D-Nevada; Jon Corzine, D-New Jersey; Charles Schumer, D-New York; and Paul Wellstone, D-Minnesota.


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With charts citing the cancer-producing dangers of arsenic in drinking water, the group said the Bush administration was ignoring scientific evidence and the congressional statute that required communities to lower the arsenic content to 10 parts per billion from the standard of 50 parts per billion set in 1942.

The EPA killed implementation of new standard in March, saying further scientific review was needed.

EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman has since maintained the administration was "committed to protecting the environment and the health of all Americans" and would enact a new standard in a "timely matter."

The EPA had no comment on the lawsuit. A spokesman said the EPA was waiting to hear from the National Academy of Sciences, which is conducting a study of the issue, before deciding what to do about standards for arsenic levels. He said EPA expected to meet the "real deadline" of 2006 for putting any new standards into effect.


• Welcome to the United States Environmental Protection Agency Home Page
• Natural Resources Defense Council

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