Groups to Challenge Feds' Refusal to Limit Perchlorate in Drinking Water

For Immediate Release

Earthjustice
Contact: 

George Torgun, Earthjustice (510) 550-6784
Ben Dunham, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500

Groups to Challenge Feds' Refusal to Limit Perchlorate in Drinking Water

Rocket fuel ingredient has tainted drinking water in 26 states, pregnant women and newborns at greatest risk

OAKLAND, Calif. - Environmental advocates plan to sue the Unites States Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) over its refusal to set limits for perchlorate
in drinking water. Perchlorate, a primary ingredient in rocket fuel,
munitions, and explosives, has been linked to thyroid problems in
pregnant women, newborns and young children nationwide.

The EPA formally announced today that it will not issue a drinking
water standard for the chemical, which has contaminated drinking water
in at least 26 states. EPA's decision represents a victory for the
Department of Defense and military contractors, which for years have
pressured EPA not to regulate perchlorate and other chemicals
associated with weapons manufacturing.

Responding to the announcement, the nonprofit environmental law firm
Earthjustice said it plans to challenge any final EPA decision in
court, representing the Environmental Working Group and other
organizations concerned about the health effects of perchlorate in
drinking water.

"EPA's decision has industry's fingerprints all over it. Weapons makers
will benefit at the expense of millions of Americans drinking water
spiked with rocket fuel," said Earthjustice attorney George Torgun.
"Clean, safe drinking water is essential. That's why we will fight in
court to make sure this toxin is regulated under the Safe Drinking
Water Act."

For years, perchlorate was dumped in the ground by the military and
missile-makers. The highly soluble toxin has spread from bases and
factories to wells and rivers across the country. If limits for
perchlorate in drinking water were set, the Defense Department and
defense contractors could be found responsible for cleanups triggered
by violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Hilda Solis (both D-CA) have
pushed for legislation that would force EPA to set a federal
perchlorate standard.

Perchlorate concentrations of less than 5 parts per billion have been
shown to inhibit iodine uptake by the thyroid gland, resulting in a
decreased formation of two hormones necessary for proper oxygen
consumption and metabolism. The harm is greatest in populations that
are developing and growing rapidly, such as fetuses, infants, and young
children.

"According to EPA, at least 10 million people have rocket fuel in their
drinking water. Yet today, the agency says there is not a 'meaningful
opportunity for health risk reduction.' I'm sure the 10 million people
drinking contaminated water think cleaning up their water supply would
be 'meaningful,'" said Ben Dunham, Earthjustice environmental health
policy analyst.

When it comes to chemicals associated with weapons manufacturing, EPA's
decision not to regulate perchlorate in drinking water appears to be
the rule rather than the exception. A 2004 GAO report found that of the
more than 200 chemical contaminants associated with munitions use, most
remain unregulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

"Because perchlorate contamination is often concentrated around
military facilities, EPA's failure to protect the public from polluted
drinking water will hit military families especially hard," Dunham
added.  "These families have already sacrificed so much for this
country. This decision adds insult to injury, by allowing contamination
to continue."

A 2005 GAO report with a state-by-state list of drinking water supplies contaminated by perchlorate can be found at: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05462.pdf (see Appendix II)

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Earthjustice (www.earthjustice.org) is the nation's leading non-profit environmental law firm. We represent hundreds of communities and organizations free of charge in cases that protect our environment and public health.

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