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#41 - New Drinking Water Regulations Could Kill 39,000 People Yearly, 06-Sep-1987

Drinking water regulations for eight toxic chemicals were announced by
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the FEDERAL REGISTER
July 8 (pgs. 25690-25717). EPA established the standards as required by
the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The eight chemicals, and the new
standards appear in Table 1, below. In the same Table, we present data
from the EPA's FEDERAL REGISTER notice, showing how many Americans the
EPA would expect to die each year from water pollution from five of
these eight chemicals if we all drank water all our lives contaminated
at the allowed level.* The five chemicals are carcinogens.

Thus the EPA says it expects that, if all our water supplies were to
become as contaminated as is allowed under the new EPA regulations,
these five chemicals would kill nearly as many people each year as
automobiles now kill. One key difference would be that the pollution
deaths would be lingering cancer deaths, not abrupt accidents. Another
difference is that these deaths will have been sanctioned by the state
without "due process" for the victims.

Standards for Eight Toxic Chemicals

Chemical Standard Expected (parts annual per deaths billion) (U.S.)

benzene 5 970 carbon tetrachloride 5 4314 1,2-dichloroethane 5 3065
trichloroethylene 5 448 para-dichlorobenzene 75 1,1-dichloroethylene 7
1,1,1-trichloroethane 200 vinyl chloride 2 30,989

POLLUTION........... 39,786


*Method of calculation: In the FEDERAL REGISTER notice (Table 2, pg.
25700), EPA presents the chemical concentration in drinking water that
they estimate would cause one cancer in 100,000 people drinking water
contaminated at that level for a lifetime. For each chemical, we simply
divided that number into the announced standard, then multiplied the
result by the current size of the U.S. population (233 million people)
divided by 100,000. For example, EPA's Table 2 says vinyl chloride at
0.00015 mg/l (0.15 ppb) will cause one death in 100,000 lifetime water
drinkers. The established standard for vinyl chloride is 0.002 mg/l (2
ppb). Dividing 0.002 by 0.00015 yields 13.3; this is the number of
people expected to be killed among each group of 100,000 water
consumers if the water contains 0.002 mg/l (2 ppb) vinyl chloride. How
many groups of 100,000 water consumers are there in the U.S. (which has
a population of 233 million)? Answer: 233,000,000/100,000 = 2330.
Multiplying 2330 x 13.3 yields 30,989 expected deaths each year.

--Peter Montague



The vast majority (96%) of hazardous wastes are not sent to commercial
waste handlers, but are processed on-site by the generators of the
wastes. In this case "processed" generally means dumped into an unlined
lagoon (nothing more than a pit in the ground) so that volatile
organics can evaporate into the local air; it can also mean "burns in
an incinerator" or "pumps into the deep earth." To do these things
legally, the generator must have a RCRA (Resource Conservation and
Recovery Act) permit. We recently asked the federal EPA to send us a
listing of all RCRA on-site waste-processing permit holders. They
obligingly sent us a list of the names and addresses (and permit
number) of 1470 permit holders.

The states with the largest number of on-site waste processors are
Texas with 156, followed by Ohio (100); California (84); Pennsylvania
(82); Connecticut (77); Indiana (69); Illinois (54); Louisiana (52);
Michigan (51); Florida (47); Alabama (40); Georgia (39); New Jersey
(38); New York (37); North Carolina (34); South Carolina (33); Kentucky
(31); Missouri (30); Oklahoma (29); West Virginia (27); Iowa (27);
Washington (26); Virginia (24); Mississippi (23); Massachusetts (21);
Colorado (20); Utah (20); Tennessee (19); Kansas (18); New Mexico (18);
Puerto Rico (15); Arkansas (15); Oregon (13); Wyoming (12); Maryland
(11); Montana (9); Wisconsin (9); Idaho (9); Arizona (6); Nevada (6);
Nebraska (6); Maine (5); Minnesota (5); Delaware (5); Hawaii (5); New
Hampshire (4); North Dakota (4); Alaska (2); Guam (2); Virgin Islands
(1); Rhode Island (0); South Dakota (0); Vermont(0).

We got this 114-page list of all noncommercial on-site waste treatment
permitees by sending a Freedom of Information Act request to: U.S. EPA
Office of Solid Waste, WH-562A, 401 M Street, SW, Washington, DC 20460;
you could ask for a list covering just your state. Who's managing
hazardous wastes on-site in your state? This list will tell you.

To find out who's processing wastes COMMERCIALLY in your state, see
Appendix A (incinerators), Appendix B (land disposal units), and
Appendix C (deep well injectors) in the indispensable EPA publication
THE HAZARDOUS WASTE SYSTEM (Washington, DC: U.S. EPA Office of Solid
Waste and Emergency Response, June, 1987); get your free copy by
phoning the EPA's RCRA Hotline: (800) 424-9346; in DC, phone (202) 382-

--Peter Montague



The BFI subsidiary, CECOS International, has been fined $100,000 by New
York State for environmental violations at its Niagara Falls, NY,
landfill. The violations occurred during 1986. For further information,
contact R.W. Groneman, NY Department of Environmental Conservation,
Room 602, 50 Wolf Road, Albany, NY 12233-1016; phone (518) 457- 5400.

--Peter Montague


Descriptor terms: bfi; landfilling; cecos international; niagara falls,
ny; fines; enforcement; drinking water regulations; sdwa; epa; cancer;
benzene; carbon tetrachloride; 1,2-dichloroethane; trichloroethylene;
para-dichlorobenzene; 1,1-dichloroethylene; 1,1,1-trichloroethane;
vinyl chloride; hazardous waste; on-site disposal; landfilling; ponds;
lagoons; incineration; deep well injection; pa; ct; tx; ca; oh; in; il;
la; mi; fl; al; nj; ga; ny; nc; sc; ky; mo; ok; wv; io; wa; va; mi; ma;
co; ut; tn; ks; nm; pr; ar; or; wy; md; mt; wi; id; az; nv; nb; me; mn;
de; hi; nh; nd; ak; ri; sd; vt;