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I would like to respond to Jennifer Wilburn's letter (Forum, Aug. 22) concerning congressional action to reauthorize the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

Wilburn states that Sens. Bennett and Hatch have "voted to weaken drinking water standards and the House is about to act." S2019, which passed the Senate on May 19 by a vote of 95 to 3, was supported by Bennett and Hatch as well as President Clinton and a large coalition of state and local government organizations. A similar bill, HR3392, is presently hung up in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Neither of these bills seeks to lower current drinking water standards. The bills do seek to make future standards be based upon firm scientific data and contaminant risk assessments.In the past, the SDWA has been a "one size fits all" law which does not take into account the various differences in raw water quality throughout the nation. The drinking water industry has never advocated lowering standards for contaminants with proven health risks, only that testing for the existence of those contaminants be based upon the physical nature of the water source and its watershed.

Under present law, certain contaminants must be tested for over and over again, at exorbitant cost, even though prior testing and watershed investigation prove that the contaminant is not present. The cost of such testing must be passed on by the utility to its customers, which, particularly in small rural systems, results in massive rate increases.

I, and the Rural Water Association of Utah, applaud the efforts of Bennett and Hatch and Representatives Hansen and Orton in their support of federal drinking water law which is fair, practical and reasonable, and which will enable those of us in the drinking water industry to continue to serve a safe, clean drink of water to everyone. We hope Rep. Karen Shepherd will join them.

Dale F. Pierson

Rural Water Association of Utah legislative leader