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E.P.A. Sets Standards For Lead in Drinking Water

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The Environmental Protection Agency is giving the nation's largest water suppliers up to more than 20 years to reduce lead levels in household drinking water.

In standards released last week, the agency set a national goal of no more than 15 parts per billion of lead in the tap water of at least 90 percent of all homes. The current federal standard is 50 parts per billion.

Utilities in large cities will have to meet the new ceiling in six years by using chemicals to reduce the acidity of their water, which lowers the amount of lead leached from pipes. If this step fails to work, they will get another 15 years to remove lead service lines.

Exposure to lead has been linked with a variety of physical problems and learning disabilities in children. The epa said that lead in drinking water contributes between 10 percent and 20 percent of total lead exposure in young children.

The agency's regulation was required by a 1986 federal law that ordered it to set standards by June 1989 and gave utilities 18 months to meet them. The epa, however, set no penalty for failure to meet the standards.

Four Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation that would cut taxes for 35 million low- and middle-income4p8families and raise them for 6 million wealthy familes.

The proposal is one of several being offered by members of both parties this year to make tax policies more "family friendly." It would replace the personal exemption with a refundable tax credit of $800 for each child and expand the earned-income tax credit and vary it by family size.

The plan would cut taxes by about $20 billion a year for families with children at income levels between $10,000 and $75,000, resulting in savings ranging from $312 for a family of four earning $60,000 to $1,073 for a family of four earning $20,000.

At the same time, it would raise the top income-tax rate to 35 percent for those with adjusted gross incomes of $130,000 to $140,000, and assess an 11 percent surcharge on the earnings of those with adjusted gross incomes above $250,000. A family with a current after-tax income of $478,000 would see its taxes go up by $22,000.

"It's time we let American families know we understand the financial strain they face and that we're on their side," Senator Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee, the lead sponsor of the "working family tax relief act," said at a press conference last week.

The bill's other sponsors are Representatives Thomas J. Downey of New York, George Miller of California, and David R. Obey of Wisconsin.

The Bush Administration last week urged the U.S. Supreme Court to set aside federal appeals court orders in the DeKalb County, Ga., school desegregation case.

The Court is expected to hear arguments in the case, Freeman v. Pitts (Case No. 89-1290), this fall.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, the Justice Department argued that the High Court should send the case back to the lower court to determine whether racial imbalances in the school system "were caused by demographic changes rather than invidious acts of the school board."

If the appeals courts finds that demographic changes are the cause, ''then the vestiges of a dual system will have been eliminated as to student assignments, transportation, extracurricular activities, and facilities," the department said.

Court supervision would continue over the areas of faculty and staff assignments because a federal district court had found that they "were not fully desegregated."

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