Federal Water Tap, July 9: Pruitt Resigns as EPA Leader
New leadership at the EPA. New Hampshire senators urge immediate action on PFAS. CDC official steps down from Legionella standards committee. And lastly, there are a bunch of meetings on the calendar: the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine hosts its third meeting on reducing Legionella risk in water systems, the EPA hosts a public meeting on its proposed rule to restrict use of scientific studies in regulatory decisions, and a CDC agency discusses Camp Lejeune drinking water contamination.
“I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda. We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!” — President Donald Trump in a tweeted statement announcing the resignation of Scott Pruitt as leader of the EPA. Andy is Andrew Wheeler, who takes over as the acting administrator.
By the Numbers
154: Ice jams in water year 2018, nearly one-third of which occurred in New York and Montana. Ice jams restrict the flow of water on a river. (Army Corps of Engineers)
Scott Pruitt stepped down as the EPA administrator. Taking over as the acting administrator will be Andrew Wheeler, currently the agency’s second in command.
A former Senate committee staffer, aide to Sen. James Inhofe, and lobbyist for Murray Energy, a coal company, Wheeler told the Washington Post that there is “enough distance” between him and his former clients that he does not believe that he will be biased in his decisions as the country’s top pollution regulator.
New Hampshire Senators Urge Action on PFAS
Before Pruitt resigned, New Hampshire’s senators sent the administrator a letter asking for “immediate action” to declare certain PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances.
The designation, under the CERCLA law, would hold polluters responsible for paying for cleanup. At a conference in May, Pruitt said that the agency would propose the designation for the chemicals PFOA and PFOS.
“It is critical for the EPA to take immediate action to protect citizens from further contamination and ensure that responsible parties are held liable for addressing any resulting health and safety concerns,” Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen wrote.
Studies and Reports
Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Veterans Affairs resigned from an advisory council that is developing technical standards to reduce the risk of transmitting Legionella bacteria in water systems, the Detroit Free Press reports.
The resignations were due to claims that another organization on the panel — NSF International — had conflicts of interest over its for-profit work. NSF International disputes the claims.
On the Radar
Hearing on EPA Science Rule
The agency will hold a public hearing in Washington, D.C., on July 17 to discuss a proposal that would restrict the agency’s use of science in decision making.
The meeting is open to all, but registration is required by July 15.
The proposed rule, which was offered by ex-Administrator Pruitt, would require the EPA to use only studies with peer-reviewed, publicly accessible data. It is being reviewed by the agency’s science advisory board.
On July 30, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will hold its third meeting in its study of reducing Legionella risks in water systems. The meeting will focus on international examples of risk reduction.
The meeting will be webcast. Registration is free, but space is limited.
Legionella are the bacteria responsible for Legionnaires’ disease, the deadliest waterborne pathogen in the United States.
Camp Lejeune Meeting
On August 8, in Atlanta, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will hold a meeting to discuss health effects from drinking water contamination at Camp Lejeune. This is the latest in a series of regular meetings on the topic.
Registration is required to attend in person, but not for viewing the meeting online.
Science Advisory Board Openings
The EPA wants to fill four seats on the board that advises the agency on scientific matters. There is also a vacancy on the board’s drinking water committee.
Nominations are due August 8.
Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton
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