February 4, 2003
Increased monitoring to protect against atrazine contamination
FROM: Jack W. Hoffbuhr, National AWWA
Who: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
On January 31, 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that surface water supplies will be required to increase monitoring for high levels of the commonly used herbicide atrazine, under an Interim Eligibility Decision (IRED). EPA's actions were to address human reproductive and developmental endpoints, and to address drinking water exposure. The public will have 60 days to comment on the IRED once it is published in the Federal Register in another week or two.
Swiss-based Syngenta AG, the largest U.S. manufacturer of atrazine, has agreed to conduct the monitoring in vulnerable community water systems and will be required to implement mitigation if the atrazine levels in drinking water sources remain too high. According to the EPA, if the amount of atrazine in drinking water sources is not reduced to acceptable levels, use of the herbicide in the affected watershed area will be banned permanently.
Under the agreement, atrazine manufacturers must establish a monitoring program for untreated water, to include weekly sampling during seasons in which pesticide use is high, and biweekly sampling during the rest of the year. Initial monitoring of surface water before it is treated will begin this year at 200 sites where test results on treated water have shown atrazine levels at or above EPA's regulatory safety standards. These 200 sites are located in 11 states in the U.S. Midwest and South.
AWWA has been highly active in this ongoing discussion, and strongly supports raw water monitoring to ensure source water protection, and to prevent utilities from being solely responsible for the treatment process and costs. The AWWA Water Industry Technical Action
Fund (WITAF) is beginning an intensive atrazine monitoring project on March 1, 2003 in order to understand the variation in atrazine over time, the effects of treatment, and to understand the relationship between atrazine and its degradation products.
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