Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Times Daily Editorial - Safe Water - Published 3/25

Times Daily Calls for Clean Water. Below is their editorial.

Will ADEM follow....?


It probably comes as no surprise to those who follow state government that Alabama has some of the most lax water quality laws in the nation, allowing industries to discharge chemicals into state waterways at much higher levels than other states allow.

A group of environmental advocacy groups last week submitted three petitions to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, encouraging the regulatory agency to adopt the strictest regulations recommended by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Other southeastern states -- with the exception of Tennessee -- already adhere to the stricter guidelines.

It's time for ADEM to join other state regulatory agencies and insist that the state's water be as clean as possible.

The petitions, filed by the Alabama Rivers Alliance and other groups, focus on chemicals that cause cancer. About 60 chemicals are identified in the petitions.

The goal, according to the environmental groups, is to sharply reduce the risk of cancer in Alabama residents.

"The goal of is to improve the regulations at ADEM and get them to comply with their own policies," Adam Synder, director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance, told the Mobile Register last week. "We want them to meet the recommended standards that EPA has produced."

That's not a radical or unreasonable request. Alabama is rich in inland waterways, which makes it attractive to manufacturers. ADEM and its controlling board, the Alabama Environmental Management Council, should act quickly to adopt these guidelines.

Alabama allows residents to eat fish with comparatively elevated levels of PCBs, and uses a cancer risk ratio of 1 in 100,000 in its water quality rules. Other states, using the EPA regulations, allow a 1 in a million risk ratio.

Tennessee Valley residents have experienced their share of water quality hazards in the past. Mercury has been an especially troubling pollutant in Tennessee River fish. The heavy metal was discharged by manufacturers along the Tennessee River in years past.

There is no reason ADEM and its board should hesitate adopting EPA guidelines. Earlier recommendations to the board for stricter environmental guidelines and enforcement have received little attention, which probably has something to do with the state's poor funding for the agency.

Alabamians deserve a better regulated environment than the one they are now living in. Adopting the EPA water discharge regulations would do much to correct that problem.

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