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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson today announced the agency’s decision to move forward with the development of a regulation for perchlorate to protect Americans from any potential health impacts, while also continuing to take steps to ensure the quality of the water they drink. The decision to undertake a first-ever national standard for perchlorate reverses a decision made by the previous administration and comes after Administrator Jackson ordered EPA scientists to undertake a thorough review of the emerging science of perchlorate. Perchlorate is both a naturally occurring and man-made chemical, and scientific research indicates that it may impact the normal function of the thyroid, which produces important developmental hormones. Thyroid hormones are critical to the normal development and growth of fetuses, infants and children. Based on this potential concern, EPA will move forward with proposing a formal rule. This process will include receiving input from key stakeholders as well as submitting any formal rule to a public comment process.

In a separate action, the agency is also moving towards establishing a drinking water standard to address a group of up to 16 toxic chemicals that may pose risks to human health. As part of the Drinking Water Strategy laid out by Administrator Jackson in 2010, EPA committed to addressing contaminants as a group rather than one at a time so that enhancement of drinking water protection can be achieved cost effectively. Today’s action delivers on the promise to strengthen public health protection from contaminants in drinking water.

“Clean water is critical to the health and prosperity of every American community and a fundamental concern to every American family. EPA is hard at work on innovative ways to improve protections for the water we drink and give to our children, and the development of these improved standards is an important step forward,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Our decisions are based on extensive review of the best available science and the health needs of the American people.”

Action on Perchlorate:

Scientific research indicates that perchlorate may disrupt the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones that are critical to developing fetuses and infants. Monitoring data show more than 4 percent of public water systems have detected perchlorate and between 5 million and 17 million people may be served drinking water containing perchlorate. The science that has led to this decision has been peer reviewed by independent scientists and public health experts including the National Academy of Sciences. Perchlorate is both a naturally-occurring and man-made chemical that is used in the manufacture of rocket fuel, fireworks, flares and explosives, and may be present in bleach and in some fertilizers. This decision reverses a 2008 preliminary determination by the previous administration, and considers input from almost 39,000 public comments.

Perchlorate is both a naturally occurring and man-made chemical that is used to produce rocket fuel, fireworks, flares and explosives. Perchlorate can also be present in bleach and in some fertilizers. Perchlorate may have adverse health effects because scientific research indicates that this contaminant can disrupt the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones needed for normal growth and development.

EPA is developing a proposed national primary drinking water regulation for perchlorate. EPA is committed to using the best available peer reviewed science and data to develop the perchlorate drinking water regulation. EPA is evaluating the available science on perchlorate health effects and exposure. EPA is also evaluating laboratory methods for measuring and treatment technologies for removing perchlorate in drinking water. The Agency is also evaluating costs and benefits of potential regulatory options for perchlorate.

EPA will continue to evaluate the science on perchlorate health effects and occurrence in public water systems. The agency will also now begin to evaluate the feasibility and affordability of treatment technologies to remove perchlorate and will examine the costs and benefits of potential standards.

Action on Drinking Water Strategy:

EPA will also be developing one regulation covering up to 16 chemicals that may cause cancer. This group of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are chemicals such as industrial solvents, includes trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) as well as other regulated and some unregulated contaminants that are discharged from industrial operations. The VOC standard will be developed as part of EPA’s new strategy for drinking water, announced by the administrator in March 2010. A key principle of the strategy is to address contaminants as groups rather than individually in order to provide public health protections more quickly and also allow utilities to more effectively and efficiently plan for improvements.

Additional Information about the Four Drinking Water Strategy Goals

Goal 1. Address contaminants as groups rather than one at a time so that enhancement of drinking water protection can be achieved cost-effectively.

The Agency announced in February 2011 that it plans to develop one national primary drinking water regulation (NPDWR) covering up to 16 carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (cVOCs).   Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), which the Agency determined were candidates for regulatory revision under the second six year review of the existing NPDWRs, will be included in the cVOC drinking water standard. EPA will propose a regulation to address cVOCs as a group rather than individually in order to provide public health protections more quickly and also allow utilities to more effectively and efficiently plan for improvements. In the near-term, EPA also will evaluate how best to address nitrosamine disinfection byproducts since data from the second Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule indicate that these compounds are being found in public water systems. In the long-term, the various offices within EPA we will continue to work together to evaluate and fill the data gaps for other groups of interest for drinking water.

Goal 2. Foster development of new drinking water technologies to address health risks posed by a broad array of contaminants.

EPA, in partnership with the US Small Business Administration (SBA), promoted the formation of a regional Water Technology Innovation Cluster in the Greater Cincinnati, Dayton, Northern Kentucky, and Southeast Indiana region that involves businesses, universities, and governments working together to promote economic growth and technology innovation. Emphasis has been placed on drinking water needs from early stages of cluster development; however, the scope also includes wastewater, storm water, and water reuse technologies because they increasingly impact each other. After a series of stakeholder meetings and the formation of a Steering Committee for the cluster, EPA Administrator Jackson visited Cincinnati on January 18, 2011, where she and the SBA Administrator announced the establishment of this regional cluster. As stated during the announcement, EPA is investing significant resources to conduct key studies of the environmental technology market place for drinking water. The cluster will develop, test, and market innovative processes and technologies including those that:

    • Are sustainable, and water and energy efficient
    • Will be cost effective for the utilities and consumers
    • Address a broad array of contaminants
    • Improve public health protection

Goal 3. Use the authority of multiple statutes to help protect drinking water.

EPA offices shared collected information and analyses conducted under the drinking water, pesticide, and toxics laws; identified authorities that will enable EPA to collect additional information on pesticides and toxic chemicals to inform analyses of potential health risks. OW and OCSPP jointly developed and released a table of non-cancer human health benchmarks for ~350 pesticides in April 2012. The table of Human Health Benchmarks for Pesticides (HHBPs) provides a tool for states, the public and other stakeholders to use for their internal decision-making processes (e.g., assist in interpreting drinking water monitoring data) when drinking water regulatory values or health advisories are not available.

In November 2010, OCSPP and OW worked together to identify a list of 134 chemicals being considered for screening for their potential to disrupt the endocrine system. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interact with and possibly disrupt the hormones produced or secreted by the human or animal endocrine system, which regulates growth, metabolism, and reproduction. The list includes chemicals that have been identified as  priorities under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and also pesticide active ingredients that are being evaluated under EPA’s registration review program. The data generated from the screens will provide robust and systematic scientific information to help EPA identify whether additional testing is necessary, or whether other steps are necessary to address potential endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Goal 4. Partner with states to develop shared access to all public water systems (PWS) monitoring data.

In 2010, EPA, the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA), and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) established a Data Sharing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the goals of:

(a) promoting advanced information technology to facilitate data sharing between states and EPA;

(b) strengthening the analysis of potential drinking water public health concerns;

(c) sharing powerful data analysis tools to target program oversight, compliance assistance, and enforcement; and,

(d) enabling consumers to obtain timely information about the quality of drinking water and the performance of public water systems in meeting drinking water standards.

In December 2010, to ensure that the data sharing goals of the MOU are achieved, a state-EPA work group was formed to focus on such issues as data requirements, characteristics of successful data exchange, uses of compliance monitoring data, and ways to provide easily accessible drinking water quality information to the public.  In 2011, in addition to continuing the work of the state-EPA workgroup, the Agency will begin to redesign the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) in which the compliance monitoring data collected under the Drinking Water Strategy will be stored and made accessible to the public.

Source : epa.gov

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