Culinary water treatment requirements proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency would affect most of the state's water utilities and cost $100 million to implement.

The proposal is designed to reduce lead contamination in public water supplies, but State Health Department officials say a better method for lead detection would cost much less and would be more effective in curbing potential lead problems.The EPA proposal would require water utilities to treat water to alter its pH value if the water was more acidic than alkaline

Kenneth H. Bousenfield, manager of the Division of Environmental Health's compliance program, told the Utah Safe Drinking Water Committee Thursday that pH measurements are a bad indicator of lead content and said a direct lead monitoring program that would cost $250,000 annually would be much more effective.

At least 88 percent of the state's water utilities would have to build treatment plants or modify existing treatment plants to comply with the proposal, Bousfield said. Those that do not comply with proposed pH standard don't necessarily have a lead problem, he said.

The Safe Drinking Water Committee and the health department recently published EPA-mandated notices about the dangers of lead in drinking water and issued simultaneous statements that Utah's culinary water supplies are well within established federal standard for lead content.

Drinking water contributes 20 percent, at most, of a person's exposure to lead, Utah health officials said.