Scientists from the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Research and Development reported in the April 16, 2001 issue of Chemical Research in Toxicology that metabolic products of trimethylated arsenic can alter DNA leading to cancerous growths, diabetes and vascular disease.

As little as 25-50 parts per billion (ppb) of arsenic in water can lead to tumors.

New Mexico has some of the highest levels of arsenic-laden drinking water in the country.  This was reported on in the Sunday, April 17, 2001 edition of the  New York Times.  It is caused by ground-water circulation through arsenic-bearing volcanic rocks within the Albuquerque Basin.

While the U.S. EPA and the New Mexico Congressional delegation go round and round on the issue, it is clear that a new and lower standard will be developed.  Of course, the water treatment industry wants the regulations sooner rather than later to bolster the big business of treating every last drop of water.

The crux of objections to lower concentration levels is the cost of compliance to treat all of the water. The New Mexico Environment Department estimates a new arsenic standard would affect approximately 25 percent of New Mexico's water systems and the cost of compliance would be between $400 million and $500 million in initial capital expenditures. Annual operating costs would fall anywhere between $16 million and $21 million.

Additionally, large water system users would see an average water bill increase between $38 and $42 and small system users would see an average water bill increase of $91. Small rural water associations and Albuquerque, the state's largest community, have raised concerns about the costs, according to Domenici.

New Mexico has a population of about 1.6 million.  If 25 percent of the water users are drinking high content arsenic water now, the capital cost will be about $1,248 per person and annual operating costs of about $50 per person affected.  In rural areas it will be higher.

When these costs are added to costs to treat water for endocrine disrupting chemicals and other drugs and their by-products, it becomes evident that it is not reasonable to treat all water and in particular water that is used to water lawns and wash cars.  Not yet discussed are n-dimethylnitrosamines which are about to become the next drinking water issue.  In California, labs with specialized ability to analyze for these compounds are having a hard time finding water standards for their quality control procedures that do not have them in it.

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