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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Oregon State: Public’s Drinking Water Safer Due to Tougher Arsenic Standard

Toughening the federal standard for arsenic in 2001 has led to fewer violations by the public systems that supply more than 80 percent of the United States’ drinking water, research led by Oregon State University shows.

Researchers found that despite lower allowable arsenic levels, the percentage of public water systems in violation fell from 1.3 percent in 2008 to 0.55 percent in 2017, with most of the violations occurring in a handful of counties in California and Texas. In terms of number of people drinking out-of-arsenic-compliance water, the figure fell nationally by more than 1 million, dropping to about 450,000.

“This reinforces the point that safety regulations do work, especially when they come with a carrot-and-stick approach, like increasing resources for systems to comply and giving them flexibility to choose what works best for their community,” says the study’s corresponding author, Dr. Molly Kile, associate professor in Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Findings were recently published in Environmental Science and Technology.

Dr. Kile, Oregon State graduate student Ms. Stephanie Foster and collaborators from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which partially funded the research, analyzed 12 years of data from the Safe Drinking Water Information System; the system is a public U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) database, established by the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, of drinking water contamination violations.

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