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ADEM commission calls for study on water pollution standards

MONTGOMERY (AP) — The Alabama Environmental Management Commission denied a petition by environmental groups that urged the state to adopt stricter standards to protect its waterways from cancer-causing pollutants.

After its unanimous vote Friday, the commission will allow a committee to review Alabama’s water quality standards and report its findings in six months.

“The petition has been denied, it has not been killed,” said Dr. Laurel Gardner, a member of the commission. “It’s still very much alive.”

The groups that filed the petition had asked that Alabama join 28 other states that require carcinogen levels in streams to be low enough that no more than one in one million people could get cancer from them.

Alabama uses a less protective risk factor that allows one in 100,000 people to get cancer.

At present, only Alabama and Tennessee, among Southeastern states, have standards less stringent than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommendation of one in a million for carcinogens found in the water.

A coalition that includes the Alabama Rivers Alliance and Conservation Alabama had sought a tougher rule by adopting the EPA standard.

EPA allows states to use either standard, but most use the more protective one.

Alabama Power Co., the Business Council of Alabama, the Alabama Coal Association and the Alabama Pulp and Paper Council all objected to stricter pollution rules.

The Business Council objected to “a significant financial impact on the Alabama business community” and stated that the petitioners failed to justify the additional expense on industry.

Clean water advocates said they were disappointed that the commission discussed the economics of regulation so much and the cost of cancer so little.

“It was a loss for public health,” said Cindy Lowry, executive director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance.

“Good intentions and hopeful words don’t prevent people from getting cancer. As this commission pursues more study, more people are going to get cancer, and more people are going to die,” said David Ludder, the lawyer representing the environmental groups.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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