Sep 23, 2008

EPA Decides Against Perchlorate Cleanup

Some scientists say rocket fuel ingredient found at levels high enough to pose health risks in 35 states

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided not to work to rid drinking water of perchlorate, a toxic rocket fuel ingredient found in some public water supplies, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

Some scientists say that in 35 states the ingredient has been found at levels high enough to interfere with thyroid function and pose developmental health risks.

Mandating a clean-up level would not result in a “meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public-water systems,” the EPA said in a draft regulatory document.

Democrats and environmentalists disappointed by the conclusion said the EPA had reacted to pressure from the Pentagon, according to the AP.

"We have not intervened in any way in EPA's determination not to regulate perchlorate. If you read their determination, that's based on criteria in the Safe Drinking Water Act," Paul Yaroschak, Pentagon deputy director for emerging contaminants, told the AP.

Benjamin Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for water, said in a statement that "science, not the politics of fear in an election year, will drive our final decision."

"We know perchlorate in drinking water presents some degree of risk, and we're committed to working with states and scientists to ensure public health is protected and meaningful opportunities for reducing risk are fully considered," Grumbles said.

The EPA expected to seek comment and take final action before the end of the year, Grumbles said. The draft document was first reported Sept. 22 by the Washington Post.