February 26, 2002
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
today upheld EPA's rule setting limits on the permissible level of
radionuclides in drinking water.
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld EPA's rule setting limits on the
permissible level of radionuclides in drinking water. The regulation retains
the existing standards for the radionuclides radium-226, radium-228, and
certain beta/photon emitters, and establishes standards for uranium for the
"This ruling upholds EPA's strong commitment to public health protection,
public involvement, and sound science in undertaking any regulatory action,"
said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water G. Tracy Mehan III. "By reducing
the public's exposure to radionuclides in drinking water, this
administration is taking a major step toward protecting American's health."
"Today's decision is a victory in our efforts to protect the nation's
drinking water supplies," said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General of
the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The
court's opinion affirms the Administration's commitment to employing the
best available science to protect the public from the dangerous health
effects of radioactivity."
The court rejected all arguments raised by the petitioners (two trade
associations and several municipal water systems), including claims that the
drinking water standards set by EPA were not based upon the best available
science. The court also rejected claims that EPA failed to perform required
cost-benefit analyses for the drinking water standards and failed to
adequately respond to comments submitted during the rulemaking process.
The rule requires that public water systems continue to treat drinking water
to meet longstanding standards for radium-226, radium-228, and certain
beta/photon emitters, and establishes a standard for uranium for the first
time. The standards are established to protect the public from the potential
adverse health effects of radionuclides. Radionuclides emit "ionizing
radiation," a known human carcinogen, as they decay. Long-term exposure to
radionuclides in drinking water may cause cancer.
In addition to the standards themselves, the rule sets forth monitoring,
reporting, and public notification requirements for radionuclides. EPA
estimates that the rule will provide improved health protection for 420,000
persons through monitoring improvements for the combined radium-226/-228
standard (a carcinogen) and for an additional 620,000 persons through the
new standard for uranium (a kidney toxin and carcinogen) in drinking water.
The rule will be effective December 8, 2003.