EPA Thursday asked for public comment through Oct. 31 on a new arsenic-in-tap-water standard before it decides the issue early next year.
"EPA today is requesting public comment on the analyses it used in developing a standard published on Jan. 22, and on up-to-date risk, costs and benefits data associated with a more protective potential standard of either 3, 5, 10 or 20 parts per billion," EPA said in a statement.
The Bush administration was criticized earlier this year when it delayed the rule issued by the Clinton-run EPA that would cut levels of cancer-causing arsenic in tap water from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb.
The move sparked much debate and angered environmentalists who called the decision to delay the rule a move that favored the mining industry and its concerns over the cost of the new standard.
EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said the delayed rulemaking was done in order to gather better science on the issue.
EPA said the implementation schedule date set last January under the Clinton rule remains the same, requiring compliance by January, 2006.
Exposure to high levels of arsenic, a chemical element, has been linked to an increased risk of bladder, lung, skin, kidney and liver cancer.
In addition, as announced in April, EPA said it will proceed with independent studies on the arsenic issue before a final decision was made.
"This includes an update by the National Academy of Sciences on arsenic health effects and separate studies on costs and benefits," EPA said.
by Virginia Foran