Drink baby, drink: EPA allows rocket fuel in public water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced that it does not intend to regulate levels of perchlorate — a component of rocket fuel linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women and young children — in public drinking water.

Although the agency does intend to issue a health advisory after its final decision, according to The Washington Post, it said in a press release that it “conducted extensive review of scientific data related to the health effects of exposure to perchlorate from drinking water and other sources and found that in more than 99 percent of public drinking water systems, perchlorate was not at levels of public health concern.

“Therefore, based on the Safe Water Drinking Act criteria, the agency determined there is not a ‘meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction’ through a national drinking water regulation.”

This preliminary decision, however, arrives after the Washington Post’s discovery that the U.S. Department of Defense and the Pentagon pressured the EPA to decide against perchlorate regulation. The perchlorate contamination level the agency deemed safe in its current document is fifteen times higher than the 2002 definition.

The EPA has given the public thirty days to comment, before it reconsiders its decision. The law firm Earthjustice announced that it intends to file to overturn the current determination. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) — chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee — also voiced concern.

“Once again on a Friday, when nobody is paying attention, the Bush administration announces a policy that will harm the American people,” she stated. “The Bush EPA’s failure to set a standard for perchlorate, a dangerous contaminant found in drinking water, is outrageous, and I will do everything in my power to reverse it. Perchlorate contamination endangers the health of our families, especially pregnant women and children, and to simply allow it to remain in our drinking water is immoral.”

The Pentagon points out that the Department of Defense has been cleaning up rocket fuel contamination for nearly a decade.

Read more here.

Sources: The Washington Post, EPA

Image from the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Collection.

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