September 23, 2008

EPA Drops Ball Again

By editorial

THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY has, once again, played ball with the White House while threatening public health. The latest case is about perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that has been linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women, newborns and young children nationwide. The toxic component, also contained in fireworks, is showing up much too often in water supplies.

Yet while the ingredient has been found in at least 395 sites in 35 states at levels high enough to pose health risks, the EPA, according to a report in the Washington Post, caved in to pressure from the Bush administration and the Pentagon, a la emission standards, and decided there's no need to eliminate perchlorate from drinking water.

The EPA's conclusion in a draft claims the clean-up level for perchlorate would not result in a "meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public water systems."

What the report doesn't say is this avoids potentially costing the government billions of dollars in cleanup costs and it keeps the Defense Department away from nasty lawsuits with upset contractors. Who wants to go through all of that trouble just for the sake of public health concerns?

Like its lack of action with greenhouse gas emissions with intense pressure from Bush and the auto industry, the EPA is ignoring that this harmful ingredient is showing up mainly as a result of defense and aerospace activities, according to congressional investigators. The Defense Department used perchlorate for decades in testing missiles and rockets, and, had the EPA set standards, the Pentagon would've been held liable. The Pentagon has strongly denied it influenced the EPA.

There was an example in Redlands where Lockheed Martin was responsible for polluting water supplies due to perchlorate contamination. What federal officials should be concerned with is the contamination isn't limited to water near testing sites. In 2004, the California Department of Food and Agriculture found perchlorate in 32 samples of milk taken in Alameda, San Joaquin and Sacramento counties.

Levels of the chemical are being found in the Colorado River, a main water source for this state and 20 million people, due to contamination from Lake Mead via Las Vegas. It has also been found in lettuce and other foods.

Due to EPA's inaction, California stepped up last year and thankfully laid down its own regulation, a drinking water standard of 6 parts per billion. Massachusetts also has its own regulation, but these two states cannot do it alone.

The EPA said it will take final action by the end of the year, but we don't hold out much hope the agency will change its mind. We urge the next administration to take action and, with congressional support, force the EPA to set standards and clean up our water supplies.

Originally published by MediaNews editorial.

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