RENO, Nev. - Sen. Harry Reid has added his voice to the call for the federal Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate its call for tougher arsenic standards for drinking water.
Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., last week wrote EPA Administrator Carol Browner, saying the agency lacks the health data to support a lower standard and is ignoring the high cost for arsenic treatment.
On Monday, Reid said he supported the proposed lower level, but was concerned about its potential financial impact on small and rural communities.
The comments come as the city of Fallon prepares to comply with an EPA order to begin removing arsenic found in its water supply at concentrations double the current federal standard.
The EPA has proposed a tenfold reduction in the federal arsenic standard - from 50 parts per billion to 5 ppb - under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Some Fallon water has tested at 100 ppb.
Both Gibbons and Reid expressed concern about the cost of compliance. Gibbons cited as an example residents of a Utah mobile home park who would face a $230 increase in their water rates under the proposal.
Reid said a community the size of Fernley, with fewer than 3,500 connections, would have to pay nearly $5,000 per person to cover the $15 million-$25 million cost of building an arsenic water treatment system.