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EPA Rule on Arsenic in Drinking Water Expected Soon

    The Environmental Protection Agency expects to issue a rule soon which would tighten limits on arsenic in drinking water which may affect the health of people all over the U.S. The National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, urged EPA in a 1999 report to tighten arsenic limits because of cancer and other health risks, http://www.nap.edu/books/0309063337/html/index.html.

    Using EPA data, the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, estimated in a February 2000 report that 34 million Americans in 6,900 communities in 25 states drink tap water posing unacceptable cancer risks because of arsenic occurring naturally in groundwater. EPA is expected to recommend in June a new limit of 5 parts per billion (ppb) in tap water sometime in the next month. The current limit, in place since 1942, is 50 ppb.

    What's the average exposure in your community and how are your utilities reacting? EPA gives broad background at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/ars/arsenic.html.

    The U.S.Geological Survey released a new map May 8 showing the distribution of arsenic in groundwater across the U.S., plus an array of background links.

    NRDC report detailing risks in individual communities: http://www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/arsenic/aolinx.asp.

    Elliott Negin, 202-289-2405. Doug Marsano, American Water Works Association (industry viewpoint), 303-347-6138, http://www.awwa.org/pressroom/pr/991130.htm and http://www.awwa.org/pressroom/pr/000224.htm.

National Academy to Report on Farm Pesticides

    Making food safer for consumers is at the core of a forthcoming report by the National Academy of Sciences entitled "The Future Role of Pesticides in U.S. Agriculture," due for release in June 2000. Reporters interested in receiving the report may be placed on a "notify" list by contacting Kim Waddell, 202-334-3062 or kwaddell@nas.edu. The report takes a broad look at pest management and food safety issues, and is mainly funded by the USDA and the EPA. Nancy Ragsdale, USDA, 301-504-4509. Kathy Davis, EPA, 703-308-7002.

Looking Backwards at Our National Parks

    If you're covering any National Parks, Monuments, or Historic Sites during the upcoming summer vacation season, remember their often rich and interesting histories. The National Park Service offers many historical resources, including the NPS historic photo collection. Also, the third edition of the NPS book "Shaping the System," which explores the agency's history through 1999, is available for free (but only online). See the "Links to the Past" section of the NPS Web site for other resources. NPS historian: Dwight Pitcaithley, 202-343-8167, dwight_pitcaithley@nps.gov. For a critical view of the history of the NPS, read "Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History" by Richard West Sellars (Yale Univiversity Press, April 1999).

EPA to Release Air Toxics Inventory Database

    By July, the EPA is expected to release the updated National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA), a follow-up component of the agency's Cumulative Exposure Project. The NATA is a compilation of data on air toxics that do not have to be reported as part of the Toxics Release Inventory. State and local environmental agencies already have review copies of the NATA. Two release dates are expected: one in late June-early July 2000 and another in early September. The first release will report ambient modeling data from 1996 and identify concentrations of NATA's 33 or so toxics on a county-by-county basis across the country. The follow-up release in September will report the actual public exposure based on journals kept by study subjects throughout the states. What are your state or local agencies doing to monitor or measure toxic air emissions? David Guinnup, EPA, 919-541-5368. Backgrounders and fact sheets at http://www.epa.gov/oppecumm/ and http://www.epa.gov/ttnuatw1/urban/nata/natapg.html. Harvard School of Public Health: Douglas Dockery, 617-432-0729 or John Spengler, 617-432-1255.
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