EPA decides it can't make up its mind on common Inland contaminant
(Contra Costa Times, CA)
By Jason Pesick
Now it appears the Obama administration will get the final say.
In a surprising reversal, the Environmental Protection
Agency announced Thursday that it does not plan to decide what the
drinking-water standard should be for perchlorate,
The EPA said it would seek the counsel of the National Academy of Sciences, for a second time.
The EPA received more than 32,000 public comments on its preliminary proposal in October not to set a standard.
"They don't have the backbone to actually go ahead
and live up to their responsibility and stand up for public health,"
said Renee Sharp,
Group, an environmental and public-health advocacy organization.
Perchlorate has been found at
400 sites across the country and in more than 100 sites in
Perchlorate can affect thyroid hormone levels, which scientists fear could lead to mental and physical problems in children.
In 2002, EPA scientists developed a draft protective level of 1 ppb, assuming all perchlorate intake comes through water. The Food and Drug Administration has estimated perchlorate from vegetables and dairy foods account for up to 59 percent of perchlorate intake.
A controversy over the proposal of 1 ppb caused the issue to be referred to a National Academy of Sciences committee.
In 2005, the committee developed a recommended reference dose of about 20 ppb, assuming a body weight of 150 pounds and that all perchlorate is ingested through water. That process was criticized as being influenced by the defense industry.
After the EPA announced its intent not to set a standard, which would apply to drinking water nationwide, lawyers at the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice announced they would sue under the Safe Drinking Water Act once the rule was final.
"I think the (EPA) has recognized that it needs to take a closer look at the science regarding perchlorate contamination," said Earthjustice lawyer George Torgun.
Sharp, of the environmental-advocacy group, said she isn't sure how the process will move forward under Obama.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., criticized the agency for not setting a standard.
"EPA's decision to delay setting a drinking water standard for perchlorate is immoral," Boxer said Thursday. Boxer chairs the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. "This is one of many midnight decisions by the Bush administration that I will raise ... next week." 1-08-09
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