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EPA Proposes Drinking Water Rules to Reduce Illness, Cancer Risks - Estimated Benefits Top $2 Billion Annually
Release Date: 07/11/2003
Contact: John Millett, 202-564-7842
(07/11/03) To further reduce the risk of illness from microbes and decrease cancer risks from chemicals that form during drinking water treatment, EPA is proposing rules that would require drinking water systems to monitor for and increase protection against Cryptosporidium while expanding the monitoring and control of disinfection byproducts. Building upon rules now in effect, the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2) and the Stage 2 Disinfection Byproduct Rule are required by the Safe Drinking Water Act and were developed in partnership with a wide range of interests including water systems, environmental groups, and state and local health officials.
“These drinking water rules are important steps in protecting Americans’ health.” said EPA Acting Administrator Linda Fisher. “These rules take the right approach toward minimizing and balancing the risks from microbial contamination and disinfection byproducts. They represent the culmination of more than a decade of analysis, research, and partnership focused on making the nation’s drinking water safer.”
Cryptosporidium is a widespread waterborne pathogen that is resistant to common disinfectants like chlorine. Ingestion of Cryptosporidium causes gastrointestinal illness – cryptosporidiosis. Health effects in sensitive populations, such as children, the elderly, and the immuno-compromised, can be severe, including risk of death. New data on Cryptosporidium indicate that most public water systems currently provide sufficient treatment. Some systems, however, may require greater protection because they are more vulnerable to Cryptosporidium. The proposed LT2 rule targets additional treatment requirements to these higher-risk drinking water systems. Specifically, the rule requires additional treatment by filtered systems with higher levels of Cryptosporidium in their water sources as well as by systems that do not filter surface water.
EPA estimates that full implementation of the LT2 rule will reduce cases of cryptosporidiosis by as many as 1,020,000 per year, with an associated reduction of up to 140 premature deaths. The economic benefit ranges up to $1.4 billion annually. The additional treatment required under the LT2 rule may also reduce exposure to other pathogens.
Annual costs of the LT2 rule are estimated to range from approximately $73.5 to $111 million. The average annual household cost is estimated to be $1.07 to $1.68 per year, with more than 98 percent of households experiencing annual costs of less than $12 per year. EPA’s Web has additional information on the proposed LT2 rule at https://www.epa.gov/safewater/lt2/index.html.
The Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule further protects public health from byproducts formed during chemical disinfection widely used by public water systems as a principal barrier to microbial pathogens in drinking water. This rule contains a risk-targeting approach to better identify monitoring sites where customers are exposed to high levels of disinfection byproducts, which have been linked both to bladder, rectal, and colon cancer and to a potential risk of reproductive and developmental health concerns.
“The Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule stresses the importance of addressing potential risks of miscarriage and fetal loss. Although the science is still uncertain, EPA must act on the weight of existing research to protect human life, and our efforts will be focused in this area in the coming years,” EPA Assistant Administrator for Water G. Tracy Mehan III said.
EPA estimates the Stage 2 Rule will reduce the incidence of bladder cancer cases by up to 182 cases per year, with an associated reduction of up to 47 premature deaths. The economic benefits from these avoided illnesses and deaths is estimated to be up to $986 million annually. EPA also expects the Stage 2 Rule to reduce fetal losses and other reproductive and developmental health effects. The annual cost of the Stage 2 Rule is expected to be $54.3 to $63.9 million. The average annual household cost is estimated to be 51 cents per year, and more than 99 percent of households will experience annual costs of less than $12 per year. More information on the proposed Stage 2 Rule is available on EPA’s Web site at https://www.epa.gov/safewater/stage2/index.html.
In other actions, EPA has concluded a Six-Year Review of 69 Drinking Water Regulations and has finalized regulatory determinations for nine contaminants on the Contaminant Candidate List. For both of these decisions, EPA’s review included the best available data on health effects, analytical methods, treatment technologies, and occurrence. For the Six-Year Review, EPA has concluded that the monitoring requirements for Total Coliform (an indicator of bacterial contamination of drinking water) should be revised. EPA also finalized determinations on nine contaminants and found that at this time it is not appropriate to develop regulations for Acanthamoeba, Aldrin, Dieldrin, Hexachlorobutadiene, Manganese, Metribuzin, Naphthalene, Sodium, and Sulfate. Information on the Six-Year Review is available at EPA’s Web site https://www.epa.gov/safewater/review.html, and the information on the Contaminant Candidate List Regulatory Determinations is available on EPA’s Web site at https://www.epa.gov/safewater/ccl/cclregdetermine.html.