Opening Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe
Ranking Member, Committee on Environment and Public Works
Oversight of Federal Drinking Water Programs
December 08, 2009, 10:00 a.m.
Thank you, Madam Chairman, for taking the time today to discuss our nation’s Federal drinking water programs. I think there is one thing that everyone in this room can agree on: clean, safe, affordable drinking water is a national priority.
Through the Safe Drinking Water Act, we have had great success in providing America with clean, safe drinking water. As our technology has improved, we have been able to detect smaller amounts of contaminants, and EPA has regulated more contaminants.
Complying with EPA’s new regulations has been difficult. Oklahoma has municipalities who struggle with the 2002 arsenic rule, and many of our small systems are having difficulty with the Disinfection Byproducts Stage I rule. Additionally, small systems that purchase water from other systems and were previously not required to test, treat or monitor their water must now comply with Disinfection Byproducts Stage II rule.
I am pleased today that we will hear from Gene Whatley, of the Oklahoma Rural Water Association. Gene understands the problems facing small drinking water systems, and I look forward to his testimony on how small systems are coping with Federal Regulations.
I know there have been many press reports recently about pharmaceuticals and other chemicals in drinking water. Our committee has held hearings on these issues in April and May of 2008. I would remind my colleagues that in 1996, under leadership of former Chairman Chafee and Ranking Member Baucus, Congress was successful in amending the Safe Drinking Water Act. Here’s what they did: The amendments required EPA to set standards if the contaminants “have known health effects,” and are “known to occur in public water systems with a frequency and at levels of public health concern.” The amendments also gave EPA the opportunity for “health risk reduction for persons served by a public water system.” I encourage my colleagues to allow EPA to keep working through this process – we don’t need new legislation that requires EPA to set standards for chemicals simply because they have received press attention.
I would also like to take the opportunity to remind the committee that we need to improve our nation’s drinking water facilities by reauthorizing the State Revolving Loan Fund programs, both for drinking water and waste water. We cannot expect our communities to continue to provide safe drinking water if they do not have the resources to meet their infrastructure needs. This committee has the responsibility to ensure clean, safe, and affordable water for our country by providing the necessary resources to states and local governments. Madame Chairman, EPA estimates that over the next twenty years, eligible drinking water systems will need over $300 billion in infrastructure investments. I believe that many of the issues we are discussing today will be helped by passing S. 1005, the Water Infrastructure Financing Act.
Thank you again for holding this important hearing, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.