We are writing on behalf of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the largest single life science organization in the world comprising more than 42,000 members, regarding the House/Senate conference committee on the Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Bill for FY 1998. The ASM is concerned about the proposed funding levels for the Environmental Protection Agency's Graduate Fellowship Program and Safe Drinking Water research programs.
Specifically, the ASM urges you to accept the House language on the Environmental Protection Agency's Graduate Fellowship Program and fully provide for the President's request of a $7 million increase, funding the program at a level of $15 million for FY 1998. The EPA's Graduate Environmental Fellowship Program is one of the many initiatives the federal government must fully support to ensure that we are prepared to answer the complex scientific questions of the future. Both the public and private sectors will need a steady stream of well trained environmental specialists. The fellowship program encourages promising environmental graduate students to pursue careers in environmentally related fields.
Furthermore, the ASM urges you to recede to the Senate language on Safe Drinking Water research and provide $36 million for this program, giving priority to research on microbial contamination of our nation's drinking water supply. The ASM believes it is imperative to provide sound reliable science to support the EPA in its effort to promulgate responsible regulations to protect human health from the risks associated with such contaminants. For example, much research needs to be conducted to control the outbreaks of human exposure to the protozoan Cryptosporidium in our drinking water as well as to other pathogens. To date, hundreds of people have died and many thousands have become ill as a result of exposure to microbial pathogens in potable water . In 1993, 400,000 people became infected with Cryptosporidium from Milwaukee's water supply. The EPA must develop advance warning systems that increase protection of public health and enable the nation to avoid future incidents such as the devastating Cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee that was disseminated via the municipal potable water supply. The protection of the American people from the potential health risks of exposure to microbial contaminants in their drinking water is reason enough to accept the Senate's $36 million funding level for this program.
Thank you for your consideration of the ASM's recommendations to strengthen the EPA's research program.