DURING PEAK growing season, concentrations of herbicides in Midwestern drinking water can soar far above federal standards, according to an environmental group's study released Thursday.
The chemical industry and local water system officials said this did not mean the water was unsafe to drink. But the Environmental Protection Agency said the study was cause for concern.
"EPA believes that consumers should check with local water utilities to make sure standards for toxic pollutants are being met," said Dr. Lynn R. Goldman, EPA assistant administrator for pesticides. "In areas where standards are not being met, we are concerned about risks to health, especially for children."
The study by the Environmental Working Group collected samples of tap water every few days in 29 communities from mid-May to July. The samples revealed the presence of at least one weed killer in all but one city: Memphis, Tenn., where drinking water comes from deep wells.
In Missouri, pollutant levels in drinking water fall well-below any levels of concern, said Terry Timmons, an environmental specialist with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
The low levels of pesticides in most drinking water would not be harmful even with a lifetime of exposure, he said. "Our water is still safe," Timmons said. "I hope people don't panic."
The research focused on two common farm herbicides: atrazine and cyanazine. …