WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is setting the
first federal drinking water standard for a toxic rocket fuel ingredient
linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women and young children, the
Obama administration announced on Wednesday.
Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson said that setting the
standard will protect public health and spark new technologies to clean
up drinking water. Based on monitoring conducted from 2001 to 2005, 153
drinking water sources in 26 states contain perchlorate. The standard
could take up to two years to develop, the EPA said.
is also used in fireworks and explosives. In most cases, water
contamination has been caused by improper disposal at rocket testing
sites, military bases and chemical plants.
"As improved standards
are developed and put in place . clean water technology innovators have
an opportunity to create cutting edge solutions that will strengthen
health protections and spark economic growth," Jackson said in a
Jackson is expected to make that case before a Senate
panel Wednesday, where she will likely face opposition from Republicans
who plan to take on the EPA over air pollution regulations, controls on
the gases blamed for global warming, and other regulations. Oklahoma
Sen. James Inhofe, the top Republican on the environment panel, will
bring forward legislation Wednesday to strip the agency of its ability
to control heat-trapping gases under the Clean Air Act. House Energy and
Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., will release an identical draft
Democrats, who have pushed for the EPA to regulate
perchlorate, say the decision shows the administration standing up for
rules that protect public health, even if they burden business.
President Barack Obama recently announced a review of all regulations to
reduce barriers to economic growth and investment.
perchlorate standard is eight years in the making. In 2002, an EPA draft
risk assessment found that 1 part per billion should be considered
safe. Six years later, the Bush administration decided not to regulate
the chemical, instead recommending that concentrations not exceed 15
parts per billion. At the time, federal scientists estimated that 16.6
million Americans could be exposed to unsafe levels through their
California and Massachusetts in the meantime have set state-level drinking water standards.
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who has sponsored legislation to require the
EPA to set a standard, said in a statement Wednesday that she was
pleased the government was "finally going to protect our families from
perchlorate." California has the most water supplies affected — 58,
according to the 2001-05 data. Many of the others are in Texas.
"I will do everything I can to make sure this new protection moves forward," Boxer said.
officials have spent years questioning the EPA's assessment of
perchlorate's risk but have denied influencing the agency's decisions.
The military could face liability for tainting water during rocket and
missile testing, since the standard will force water agencies around the
country to clean up the pollution.