Longform

Tale of the Crypto

Page 6 of 6

Of course, one of the main obstacles to making the canals more pleasant is the sludge piled along the banks for half of the year.

Shadegg declined Rimsza's overtures. Both SRP and the EPA say that Rimsza is mistaken in his interpretation of the WESTCAS bill. Catherine Kuhlman even called the water department and asked officials to convey that message to Mayor Rimsza in no uncertain terms. The proposed bill has nothing to do with sludge, they say, and any standards that the state sets have to be approved by the EPA anyway.

Which may not be saying much.
Arizona's water-quality standards are already so lax that the EPA has been ordered to rewrite them.

And drinking-water standards are under attack in Congress, with a torrent of legislation floated to weaken them.

The EPA, meanwhile, has been foundering in the government shutdown. The agency had intended to issue cryptosporidium guidelines early this year, but was set back by the federal furlough.

"We know that cryptosporidium is most likely to occur during spring thaws and rains," EPA administrator Carol Browner told the newsletter Inside EPA in December. "We're losing weeks now in terms of finalizing a rule that allows the data collection to take place so we can set standards and issue guidance. When we come back we'll have to evaluate what four weeks means in terms of that rule--can we be ready to go this spring? And we may not be."

Congressional Republicans have already stated that one way to deal with federal agencies they dislike is to cut their appropriations. They immensely dislike the EPA.

Catherine Kuhlman lamented to New Times that, for budgetary reasons, she has not been able to put her people out in the field yet this year to check on compliance. Still, she hopes to hold Phoenix to some final decision on sludge removal by the end of this year or by early 1997.

Given the sludgelike flow of budget talks in Washington, that may be wishful thinking. And the delay could work in Phoenix's fiscal favor. In fact, almost anything could happen with the EPA and drinking-water regulation.

As Skip Rimsza says with a faint tone of Sagebrush Rebellion in his voice, "We don't even know if they'll be the regulatory authority by then.

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Michael Kiefer