WASHINGTONThe Environmental Protection Agency, a Trump-era environmental agency, announced Thursday that it will not regulate a water contaminant linked to infant brain damage.
According to the agency, the Trump administration’s 2020 decision not to regulate perchlorate drinking water was based on the best peer-reviewed science. This chemical is used in rocket fuel, fireworks, and other uses.
Trump’s EPA stated at the time that perchlorate wasn’t found in sufficient quantities in drinking water or at “levels of public health concern” enough to warrant federal regulation. This was just one of many Trump-era rollbacks and eliminations of existing or pending environmental and public health protections. At the beginning of Biden’s term, the Biden administration ordered that this decision be reviewed.
Radhika Fox, EPA Assistant Administrator, stated that the agency was using the right tools in order to support public protections.
Environmental groups condemned the decision of the Biden administration.
Trump EPA gave perchlorate a pass. This was a bad choice then and it is a bad choice now, said Erik Olson, a Natural Resources Defense Council advocacy organization. The toxic chemical will continue to be in tap water throughout America.
Perchlorate runoff can contaminate the drinking waters of up to 16 millions Americans, according to the Obama administration in 2011. In 2011, the EPA announced that it would for the first-time set maximum limits for this chemical compound. It has been used in the U.S. since decades, mainly by the military, defense, and aerospace industries. It is also found in munitions as well as fireworks and signal flares.
The American Academy of Pediatrics warned that the compound can harm the development of fetuses. It can also cause measurable declines in intelligence in newborns. It can disrupt the functioning of the thyroid, which can cause damage to human development.
The 2020 review by the EPA stated that state-level regulations and cleanup efforts at contaminated sites have reduced the health risks posed. California and Massachusetts limit perchlorate in drinking waters to 2 parts/ billion and 6 bits/ billion, respectively.
Olson of Natural Resources Defense Council said that standards are not being set for the rest. He stated that the compound is among the most problematic chemicals in our water.
Perchlorate has been detected as a component of groundwater in the Southwest. It was found in Lake Mead, Nevada. The chemical was derived from Henderson, Nevada’s manufacturing facilities. According to the EPA cleanup at two industrial sites in Nevada between 2006 and 2002 resulted in lower levels of perchlorate reported by Nevada environmental and health agencies.
Thursday’s announcement by the EPA stated that it was looking at other options to a federal drinking limit. These include setting standards for open burning and detonation sites where severe perchlorate pollution is generated by the burning of hazardous wastes from weapons manufacturing and munitions. Colfax, Louisiana is one such site, which environmentalists have long supported reform.
Environmental advocates say such measures are inadequate.
John Rumpler (senior attorney with Environment America) stated that toxic chemicals used to make rocket fuel don’t belong in our drinking waters.
Matthew Daly, AP reporter, contributed to this report.
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