Montgomery Advertiser Editorial (Below) Supports Clean Water
Will ADEM follow...?
Stricter rules well justified
March 27, 2007
Alabama has one of the nation's highest cancer death rates. There are multiple reasons for that, but the sobering statistic plainly argues for efforts against known risk factors -- and thus for more stringent environmental regulations.
Alabama should adopt the recommendations of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which are used in most other states and which provide a significantly greater degree of protection than the standards of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. In the Southeast, only Alabama and Tennessee employ less protective pollution standards than EPA recommends.
The Alabama Environmental Management Commission, which oversees ADEM, was presented last week with three petitions calling for the adoption of the stricter standards. The petitions deserve the commission's serious attention.
The Press-Register reported that the petitions presented by environmental organizations urge ADEM to revise the cancer risk level used in the calculation of allowable pollution discharges and to cut the permitted levels of water pollutants. There are strong cases to be made for all the petitions.
Perhaps the most powerful argument is for changing the cancer risk calculations. Alabama's water quality rules are based on a 1 in 100,000 cancer risk from exposure to carcinogenic materials. In most states, the calculations are based on a 1 in 1 million risk -- 10 times more protective than Alabama's regulations.
One petition calls on ADEM to adopt a "relative source contribution" policy on some cancer-causing pollutants found throughout the environment, not only in water. This would take into account exposure in the air and in food. Current regulations address only exposure in water, meaning that Alabamians could have an overall exposure to these pollutants that exceeds levels EPA deems safe. Yet again, most states use this factor in establishing water quality formulas.
Another petition supports adopting EPA's "reference dose" rules on phenol, used in manufacturing nylon and plastics, and acrolein, used in making many chemicals and pesticides. This refers to the amount of a pollutant EPA deems safe to consume per day. ADEM's current regulations allow significantly more discharge of these materials than EPA recommends.
The fact that most states already have higher water quality standards should tell Alabamians something. Claims that stricter standards hurt economic development are nonsense. They certainly didn't prevent Georgia's landing the Kia plant or Mississippi's getting the Toyota plant, to name but two recent examples.
With the nation's sixth highest cancer death rate, Alabama clearly does not lack for justification in adopting stricter water quality standards.