EPA Orders Douglas Drinking Water System to Reduce Arsenic

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered the Monte Vista Water Company to reduce arsenic levels in their drinking water system or face penalties of up to $37,500 per day for each violation.

The EPA’s order requires the system, serving over 150 residents northwest of downtown, to develop and meet a schedule to comply with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act’s arsenic standard of 10 parts per billion.  Arsenic is a naturally occurring mineral found primarily in groundwater.

“Clean, safe drinking water is a basic need for every Arizonan,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “We’ll continue to take action against public drinking water systems to ensure they all comply with all Safe Drinking Water Act standards.”

In January 2001, the federal government lowered the arsenic standard in drinking water from 50 ppb to 10 ppb and gave systems 5 years to come into compliance with the new standard. The Monte Vista Water Company failed to meet the deadline and is out of compliance. The order requires Monte Vista Water Company to submit a plan in November and comply with the arsenic standard by 2013.

The EPA does not anticipate collecting penalties if Monte Vista Water Company complies with the order.  Statewide approximately 80 small water purveyors are currently out of compliance with a variety of federal drinking water standards from monitoring and reporting requirements to exceedances of contaminant limits.  Small systems often struggle to keep current with ongoing monitoring and reporting requirements.

Arsenic is a known carcinogen. Drinking high levels of arsenic over many years can increase the chance of lung, bladder, liver and skin cancers, as well as heart disease, diabetes and neurological damage. Arsenic inhibits the body’s ability to fight off cancer and other diseases.

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