May 7, 2001

EPA's National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Arsenic and Clarifications to Compliance…

  • Susan Dudley

    Director, George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center
Key materials

Rulemaking:

EPA’s National Primary Drinking Water Regulations; Arsenic and Clarifications to Compliance and New Source Contaminants Monitoring

Stated Purpose:

Delay the effective date for nine months (to February 22, 2002), to examine "the adequacy of science and the basis for national cost estimates underlying the rule."

Summary of RSP Comment:

EPA is justified in delaying the effective date of the arsenic rule, which was issued on the very last day of the Clinton Administration. The delay will not harm public health; even if the rules were not delayed, drinking water systems would not have been required to meet the new standard until 2006. Furthermore, nothing about the delay would prevent communities from investing now in controls to reduce or remove arsenic from their drinking water supplies if they so desire. However, a more careful review of the scientific and economic evidence will enable EPA with more confidence to choose the level at which communities would be compelled to make those investments.

Compelling communities to reduce arsenic takes money that could be used to buy better schools, new emergency response equipment, or increased traffic safety. Before requiring those expenditures, EPA should carefully evaluate and understand the risks, benefits, and tradeoffs involved. EPA should base decisions on revising the standard on the best scientific evidence of public health effects.

In addition, since the arsenic standard represents the first real opportunity for EPA to use the benefit-cost balancing authority granted by the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments, this decision will set a precedent for how future drinking water standards are set. It is thus especially important that EPA base these standards on sound regulatory principles.

See also: The Mercatus Comment on "Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Non-attainment New Source Review (NSR): Routine Maintenance, Repair, and Replacement"