Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – August 10, 2001

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs
August 10, 2001

House and Senate Weigh in on Arsenic Debate

Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate recently passed amendments that block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) review of the 10 mg/L arsenic standard issued by the Clinton Administration. Citing a 1999 National Academy of Science report calling for a stricter arsenic standard than the 50 mg/L level currently in effect, House Democrats carried a 218-189 vote to block any Bush Administration attempt to weaken the new 10 mg/L arsenic standard. EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman argues that more research is needed to justify spending the approximately $200 million on the standard. The Senate’s amendment calls for an immediate protective standard. A conference committee comprised of House and Senate members will meet in the coming weeks to achieve a consensus prior to sending the legislation to President Bush.

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U.S. Mayors Argue for Improved Water Structure

Representing the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), Marc H. Morial, president of the USCM and mayor of New Orleans, testified before the Senate’s subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure on the need for improved water and wastewater infrastructure. Morial indicated that recent USCM survey data ranked water and wastewater needs as a top priority for the nation’s mayors, second only to transportation needs. A coalition of stakeholders – including mayors, utilities, environmental organizations and others – are pressing for increased funding for the nation’s water infrastructure.

To read Morial’s testimony, visit
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Public Health Outbreak hits Russia

More than 130 people in the central Russian region of Tatarstan were recently hospitalized on suspicion of contracting cholera. Most of those hospitalized had sought refuge from a record heat wave by swimming in the city’s ponds and river. According to United Press International, regional authorities are responding to the cholera outbreak by adding more chlorine to the drinking water and improving garbage removal on the streets in a bid to improve sanitation.

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Environmental Enforcement: Bush Proposes Stronger State Role

The Bush Administration is advancing a plan to cut federal environmental enforcement operations and to shift resources to the states. According to the Washington Post, President Bush has proposed reducing the EPA’s enforcement staff in Washington and regional offices by eight percent, or 270 positions, while providing $25 million in new grants to the states for enforcement activities. Bush and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman have called for reduced federal oversight and intervention. The House Appropriations Committee last week approved funding for the EPA next year that includes the administration’s proposed cuts in enforcement. The Senate Appropriations Committee subsequently voted to restore the funding. The dispute will be worked out in conference committee.

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