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December 3, 1998

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Preserving our fragile Earth, and protecting our families, requires us to work together to restore our water, our air, and our land. Working together is the only way we can ensure that we will pass on this Earth, God's greatest gift, healthy and whole.

President Bill Clinton
December 3, 1998

Today, after touring a water treatment plant in Newport, Rhode Island, President Clinton announces new measures to strengthen drinking water protections for 140 million Americans. The new public health standards --the first to be issued under the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 --will protect against Cryptosporidium, other disease-causing microbes, and potentially harmful byproducts of the water treatment process. In addition, the President is releasing $775 million to states for low-interest loans to help communities upgrade their water treatment systems.

Safeguarding Our Drinking Water. Americans enjoy the safest drinking water in the world. Eighty-six percent of this country's tapwater fully meets our tough federal standards. Since 1993, 10 million more Americans are receiving water from utilities reporting no violations of federal health standards. Yet threats remain, and President Clinton is working to make our water even safer. Major reforms of the Safe Drinking Water Act proposed by the President, and passed by Congress in 1996, are leading to stronger standards and providing communities with the resources to meet them. In August, the President announced a key step under these reforms --new rules requiring utilities to provide their customers with regular reports on the quality of their drinking water.

New Standards to Protect Public Health. The Safe Drinking Water Act amendments focus federal research and regulatory efforts on the contaminants that pose the greatest risk. In coming years, guided by new data and science, the Environmental Protection Agency will adopt several new drinking water standards and tighten existing ones. Today, the President is announcing the first two sets of standards under the 1996 amendments:

  • Cryptosporidium, a microscopic parasite found in animal and other organic wastes, is one of several potentially harmful microbes that can contaminate drinking water. A 1993 Cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee sickened 400,000 people, hospitalized more than 4,000, and caused more than 50 deaths among people with weakened immune systems. Many other cases go undetected. By requiring improved filtration and monitoring in water systems serving 60 million people, the new standards will prevent up to 460,000 cases of waterborne illness a year;
  • Disinfection Byproducts are potentially harmful compounds created during the water treatment process. One of the great health advances of the 20th century is the control of cholera, typhoid and other diseases through the disinfection of drinking water. However, disinfectants can combine with natural organic material in water to create byproducts, some of which cause cancer or birth defects in laboratory animals. The new standards will require improved treatment practices in water systems serving 140 million people, reducing exposure to these byproducts by 25 percent.

Helping States And Communities Upgrade Drinking Water Systems. The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act amendments authorized a $9.6 billion fund proposed by President Clinton to help upgrade drinking water systems. Today, the President announces the latest round of grants to states and U.S. territories --a total of $775 million in fiscal year 1999. These grants will be used by State Revolving Loan Funds to provide low-interest loans to municipalities to improve water systems and protect watersheds. In addition, EPA is releasing $93.8 million in grants to states to support their drinking water programs.

State-by-State Numbers on Safe Drinking Water Grants

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December 3, 1998

Improving Drinking Water