October 1998

Q & A with Hastings Utilities on Proposed Limits on Copper in Nebraska's Drinking Water

Copper Applications in Health & Environment

By Dale Peters

EPA officials, Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., Rep. Bill Barret, R-Neb., and representatives of communities in Nebraska held a meeting hosted by the Nebraska League of Municipalities at the Hastings Utilities building in August to discuss problems with complying with the EPA's Lead and Copper Rule (see Nebraska Calls for Changes in Proposed Limits on Copper in Nebraska's Drinking Water). Innovations interviewed Marvin Schultes, Manager Hastings Utilities for Hastings' views of the situation.

Innovations: Do you believe the current level of copper in Nebraska's drinking water presents a threat to the health of its citizens?

Schultes: No. Many communities throughout Nebraska, including Hastings, believe that no health risks are associated with the concentrations of copper present in water samples taken in conjunction with the EPA's Copper Rule. Although Hastings Utilities cannot speak for any other community, we believe that there is absolutely no health threat to our water customers from exposure to copper.

Innovations: What has prompted the concern about copper?

Schultes: Its inclusion along with lead exposure limits in regulations developed by the EPA. Science has established health related problems caused by lead. Local samples are well below the guidelines established for exposure to lead. Many state health departments, and communities alike, believe that the rules for copper exposure in drinking water lack any credible scientific evidence. The copper limits, which require mandatory water treatment if exceeded, are the reason that so many communities have taken issue with the copper portion of the Lead and Copper Rule.

Innovations: Do you believe the proposed federal limits for copper in drinking water in Nebraska are appropriate?

Schultes: No. As stated previously, the science on which the copper portion of the rule is based is weak. An unpublished preliminary study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) concluded that the water in Hastings, and in Nebraska as a whole, is safe with respect to copper. The source water for local supplies is pure. To begin treating local drinking water based on the present requirements of the Lead and Copper Rule would be unnecessary and unwise.

Innovations: How would you like to see the regulations changed?

Schultes: It is essential whenever regulations with wide reaching effects are proposed, that significant peer reviewed investigations be done prior to the regulations becoming effective. Many believe that this is not the case with the copper portion of the rule.

Innovations How great a burden to your community would it be to reduce copper levels to the EPA limits?

Schultes: A tremendous burden. Most importantly, local citizens believe that the quality of their drinking water would be compromised if treatment were to begin. Additionally, many believe that it would be an extremely unwise expenditure of public monies, for a "problem" that does not exist. Initial expense to install treatment equipment at the 28 sites of local wells, would be $1 million. Annual expenses thereafter are estimated at $250,000. Given the Water Department annual revenues, local rates would rise by 10 to 20 percent due to those costs.

Innovations: When is your next meeting with the EPA? What do you hope to accomplish?

Schultes: No direct meetings between Hastings Utilities and the EPA are currently scheduled. However, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the Nebraska League of Municipalities, and representatives from the Nebraska congressional delegation continue to meet with EPA in an effort to encourage accurate scientific justification for the copper action limits.


Dale Peters
Vice President
Copper Development Association Inc.

Also in this Issue:


2007   |   2006   |   2005   |   2004   |   2003   |   2002   |   2001   |   2000   |   1999   |   1998   |   1997