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EPA to withdraw approval of Idaho’s arsenic standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is retracting its approval of Idaho’s water quality standards for arsenic under a settlement agreement with a Portland, Ore.-based environmental group.

Northwest Environmental Advocates filed the lawsuit last year challenging the EPA’s approval of Idaho’s arsenic standards.

U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez approved the settlement June 7 requiring the EPA to reevaluate Idaho’s arsenic standards and decide whether to re-approve them by September. If the agency rejects the Idaho standards, the state will have until 2019 to come up with a new proposal.

In the meantime, the EPA will increase monitoring of pollution discharges. The agency is in charge of reviewing and approving water quality standards before states can implement pollution controls.

An EPA spokeswoman did not immediately return request for comment.

Six years ago, the EPA allowed Idaho to use guidelines under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act when setting some standards for bodies of water, instead of the Clean Water Act guidelines. The environmental group contended that the drinking water standards don’t account for fish consumption and other ways that humans can be exposed to arsenic in water.

“EPA violated the Clean Water Act when it allowed arsenic levels in Idaho waters that are up to 1,000 times greater than the agency has determined are acceptable for this toxic chemical,” Nina Bell, executive director of Northwest Environmental Advocates, said in a prepared statement. “EPA placed political expediency over human health protection.”

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