Poll: Public Wants Mercury-free Water Treatment

More than half of adults nationwide (54 percent) are highly concerned about accidental mercury contamination of their hometown water supplies, and nearly two-thirds (65 percent) want Congress to act immediately to ensure that mercury-free water treatment technologies are included in implementation guidelines for new EPA water treatment rules scheduled to be published on Dec. 15.

The results, released by polling firm Zogby International (http://www.zogby.com) on Dec. 12, come amid increasing public attention to the risks associated with the mercury. The new EPA rules will provide guidelines to U.S. water systems on application of technology that relies on mercury-based ultraviolet light (UV) lamps to disinfect drinking water supplies. EPA is currently testing new mercury-free UV alternatives, and the surveys find that nearly eight-in-10 (79 percent) of Americans want the EPA to complete that testing and include the alternatives before implementing the new rules.

Findings of Zogby polls reveal that an overwhelming eight-in-ten (81 percent) Americans would prefer their drinking water treated with the mercury-free UV alternative being tested by EPA, while only 3 percent would choose the mercury-based technology currently included in the EPA guidelines. The surveys also find broad concern among Americans -- 22 percent are moderately concerned and 36 percent are very concerned -- that their local water system would follow the current EPA guidelines and install the mercury lamp treatment system before the EPA testing of mercury-free alternatives is completed.

Two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents want Congress to intervene with the EPA to ensure that testing of the new mercury-free UV alternatives is completed before implementing the new EPA rules. This support crosses a number of demographic groups, with residents of large and small cities, suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas throughout all regions of the country with municipal water supplies all strongly supporting Congressional action to halt the EPA plan until after testing of mercury-free alternatives is completed.

The Zogby Interactive surveys of 2,271 adults were conducted Nov. 11 through 14, and surveys of 2,327 adults were conducted Dec. 7 and 8, 2005, both on behalf of Zogby client LightStream Technologies Inc.

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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