Hanford, Calif., Ordered To Reduce Arsenic In Drinking Water

EPA announced on Sept. 18 it recently issued an order to the city of Hanford, Calif., requiring the municipality to adhere to a compliance schedule for removing arsenic from its drinking water to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Arsenic in Hanford's drinking water ranges from less than 10 parts per billion (ppb) to 50 ppb. The new federal standard for arsenic in drinking water from municipal systems is 10 ppb or less.

"The city has taken the initiative to begin addressing the new standard," said Alexis Strauss, water director for the Pacific Southwest. "We encourage other water systems which may exceed the arsenic standard to follow Hanford's example and take the steps needed to protect the public health."

The order requires the city to meet a schedule of well rehabilitation and development that will result in the first well coming into compliance with the arsenic standard late this year. The rest of the city's wells will each be brought into compliance over the next several years with full compliance by all of the city's 18 wells by December 2009.

The city of Hanford already has developed a proposed draft schedule and an arsenic reduction plan for its municipal wells that supply drinking water to its 48,000 residents, agency officials said. Rehabilitation of the first well began this year.

In January 2001, EPA adopted a new standard for arsenic in drinking water at 10 ppb, replacing the old standard of 50 ppb. Systems were required to comply with the new standard by January 2006.

Although a naturally occurring mineral, arsenic is a poison. It is naturally found in groundwater. Drinking high levels of arsenic increases the chance of lung, bladder, and skin cancers, as well as heart disease, diabetes and neurological damage, according to EPA. Arsenic inhibits the body's ability to fight off cancer and other diseases.

More information about the EPA's arsenic standard can be found at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/arsenic/basicinformation.html#seven.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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