from the Congress Action newsletter

Poisoned Water

by: Kim Weissman
April 22,  2001

Environmentalists and lock-step leftists are trying to claim that President Bush wants to poison drinking water, and some ignorant people actually think that Bush wants them to drink poisonous levels of arsenic.

Unless you drink distilled water, all drinking water has some level of various impurities in it, including arsenic. The issue is not whether the water you drink is 100% pure — none is, and it would be prohibitively expensive, and totally unnecessary, to make it so — the question is whether the levels of impurities in the water are in any way dangerous. So what is the current level of arsenic deemed to be harmless?

The present standard is that drinking water can contain no more than 50 parts per billion (ppb) of arsenic. That is the standard that Bush is allowing to remain in force. What level of arsenic was deemed to be harmless during the 8 years of the Clinton/Gore administration? Precisely the same level — 50 parts per billion. Yet for some reason the media seems to have missed reporting on the tens of thousands of people who were poisoned by arsenic during the Clinton/Gore administration. That's because there weren't any. And for some reason the screeching environmentalists and the brain-dead public didn't clamor that Bill Clinton and Al Gore were trying to poison the drinking water with their 50 ppb standard. Yet in the final days of his last term, among his final blizzard of Executive Orders and hasty regulations, Bill Clinton decided to reduce by fiat the allowable level of arsenic from 50 ppb down to 10 ppb.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) studied the issue and suggested a lower standard should be considered, but didn't specify an acceptable level. All Bush has done is to suspend Clinton's arbitrary standard while the science is further examined. But to radical environmentalists, science always takes a back seat to emotionalism. Yet even that extreme left-winger and Clinton zealot Michael Kinsley has been forced to conclude (in a Washington Post editorial titled "Bush is Right on Arsenic. Darn!") concluded that "10 parts per billion clearly is overregulation." Why? Because there is no science showing any benefit to reducing the level from 50 ppb to 10 ppb, and such a reduction would be enormously expensive.

Virtually every city and town water system in the nation would be forced to spend millions of dollars reducing the arsenic levels, incurring enormous costs for no demonstrable benefit. If money was available in unlimited amounts, we might say, so what? But there is not an endless supply of money, as any local politician struggling with a local budget will hasten to point out. For the millions spent by a small town on a phantom benefit to their water supply, how many teachers or police officers could be hired? How much repair could be made to aging schools or public infrastructure? Further, a study by the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies concluded "We find that the rule probably will result in a net loss of life." (emphasis in original)

So why did Bill Clinton suddenly decide to reduce the permissible level of arsenic by 80%? Was he mistaken? Misguided? Absolutely not — he knew precisely what he was doing. And anyone could have predicted exactly what happened. When Clinton tossed the arsenic hot potato to Bush, Bush could have either let the regulation stand, or he could have done just what he did and suspend the regulation. If he let the new rule stand, it would have been the Bush administration that was castigated by local politicians for imposing unnecessary costs on their local budgets. If Bush suspended or revoked the rule, it was obvious that extremist environmentalists, who harbor an undying love for government regulation and a visceral hatred for anything republican or conservative, would seize on that action and portray it as impending doom from arsenic poisoning. Naturally the mainstream media would echo the baseless charges of the environmentalists, and they certainly could be counted on not to point out that the 50 ppb arsenic standard was precisely the same under Clinton as under Bush. And so the myth was born that President Bush wants to poison drinking water by increasing the permissible level of arsenic. And the final piece of the puzzle is the brain-dead public, taking up the charge and running with it, blaming Bush for increasing the level of arsenic in their water.

The next time you hear someone whining about how dangerous Bush is for trying to poison their drinking water, have some sympathy — you are hearing the voice of an ignorant pawn being masterfully manipulated by scheming leftists whose only goal is to destroy the Bush presidency by any means necessary.

In honor of this weekend's 31st celebration of "Earth Day", environmentalists are in full hysteria against Bush. "From arsenic in our drinking water to industrial development in protected places, the first three months of the new administration produced a stunning litany of anti-environmental proposals that threaten our health, our communities and our world famous wild places," proclaimed the president of the Wilderness Society. Greenpeace plans Earth Day protests against what they call the "Toxic Texan".

Environmental organizations now routinely release statements demanding that Bush halt what they call an assault on the environment. They have it wrong — President Bush is assaulting the extremism of an environmental movement that has exceeded all bounds of reason; a movement that has crossed the line from intelligent and reasoned conservation and pollution control, into outright fanaticism with an utter disregard for the human losses or financial costs that their agenda imposes.

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26 apr 2001