U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) has notified Administrator Carol Browner, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the association's intent to file suite against the agency for not setting aside $10 million per year from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) for health effects research, pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996.
As stated in a letter from the association to the Browner, "AMWA alleges that the agency's failure to set aside $10,000,000 for each of fiscal years 1995, 1996 and 1997, for a total of $30,000,000 for health effects research constitutes a clear violation of section 1452(n) of the act which imposes on the agency a nondiscretionary duty to set such funds aside for that purpose.
"The regulatory regime in the 1996 amendments relies heavily on health effects data, and the set-aside mechanism in the amendments was designed to ensure the agency would have a continuous source of funds for the research," said Diane VanDe Hel, AMWA's executive director. "We expect the agency to follow the law."
Congress appropriated money for the DWSRF in fiscal years 1995, 1996, and 1997. For fiscal year 1997 -- the year the SRF was created by the 1996 amendments -- Congress lumped together funding for all three years to give the agency $1.275 billion. The 1996 amendments authorize $1 billion per year for the new SRF and require the agency to set aside $10 million per year from the SRF for health effects research. EPA did not take advantage of the set aside in fiscal year 1997 and, according to EPA's budget, does not intend to do so in fiscal year 1998.
According to AMWA, EPA's health effects research budget has fallen since 1982 when the agency spent $10 million, through 1996 when the agency spent only about $2 million to gather the needed data.
In fiscal year 1997, Congress earmarked $10 million for the EPA to spend on health effects research, and EPA requested the same amount for fiscal year 1998. "We appreciate EPA's request for 1998, but the agency has insufficiently funded health effects research for far too long," said VanDe Hel. "Given past experience, can we trust EPA to ask for and receive from Congress $10 million each year? Health effects research is too important to leave it to chance."
"The research is needed to develop scientifically sound regulations. If EPA follows the law, there will be a continuous stream of funding for the much needed health effects research through 2003," VanDe Hel said.
AMWA represents the nation's largest, publicly-owned municipal water suppliers who combined serve over 100 million customers.
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