The Pentagon missed a deadline last week for sending Congress a report on contamination by the toxic chemical perchlorate at defense sites nationwide.
An ingredient in rocket fuel, perchlorate has been found in drinking water supplies in 22 states where it was manufactured and distributed. It has been linked to thyroid cancer and may be especially harmful to infants.
April 30 was the deadline for a report on the contaminant as stated in a military construction bill passed last year.
Senior Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that handles military construction, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein complained to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that the deadline had been missed.
"I am troubled by the fact that the department has consistently avoided providing information to Congress about perchlorate contamination on Defense Department sites, and describing what, if anything, it has done to remediate the contamination," Feinstein wrote Rumsfeld in a letter released on Monday.
Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood said there was no particular reason for the delay other than trying to make sure the report was prepared correctly. He added that it should be ready within a few days.
The Environmental Protection Agency is working on its first national standard for perchlorate in drinking water but is not expected to issue a final standard until 2006.
Last month, California officials set the state's public health goal at six parts per billion the first such level set in the country for the toxin. EPA's draft proposal is stricter one part per billion.
For over a year, lawmakers have been waiting for a comprehensive report on perchlorate from the Defense Department. Last year they received what they described as a sketchy, confusing document in which officials surveyed only 305 of the nation's 5,000 former and active military bases.
Democrats have complained the Pentagon is resisting full disclosure because it could face billions of dollars in cleanup costs and liability for health problems.
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