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Arsenic Rule Adds New Expenses to Already Over-Burdened Water Utilities

Ratepayers worry as Colorado towns prepare to meet new arsenic standards

By Sylvie Dale
Online Editor

January 7, 2002 — About 20 small towns in Colorado are looking at upgrading their water treatment plants as new, tougher arsenic regulations approach.

Regardless of what is done to bring the arsenic levels down to 10 ppb, water officials and customers alike fear it could cost a bundle, reported the Rocky Mountain News.

Water officials in Alamosa, Colo., a town located in south central Colorado, said that it could wind up paying more than $7 million in capital upgrades. The upgrades could easily double the water rates customers are paying, Rocky Mountain News said.

The San Luis Valley may be hardest hit by the new standard. In this region, groundwater in parts of Alamosa and Rio Grande counties contains excessive levels of the naturally occurring metal. Coincidentally, the areas are among the poorest in the state, the Rocky Mountain News said.

Colorado's burden is no surprise. The new federal limits on drinking water recently approved by the Bush administration October 31, 2001 were expected to impact about 4,000 systems across the nation. With a final compliance deadline of January 2006, water authorities must scramble to get projects going despite the depressed state of the U.S. economy.

EPA is providing up to $20 million for research and development of more cost-effective technologies to help small systems meet the more protective 10 ppb standard.

The agency also promised technical assistance and training to operators of small systems, and the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund also is available for infrastructure improvements. Another program, the Public Water Systems Supervision grants program, provides funding to small systems for arsenic-related upgrades. Other federal funds are available through Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant Program, and the Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, EPA said.

For more information on EPA's standard, visit EPA's page on arsenic at

To read the Rocky Mountain News story, visit


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