Federal Water Tap, April 4: EPA Reaffirms Decision Not to Regulate Rocket Fuel Chemical in Drinking Water

The Rundown

  • The EPA maintains a Trump administration decision not to regulate perchlorate in drinking water.
  • The EPA intends to reverse a Trump-era ruling on Washington state water pollution standards related to fish consumption.
  • The EPA also releases a five-year plan with numeric targets for water and other goals.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation announces $420 million in rural water supply project funding.

And lastly, the EPA announces public meetings for advisory groups on drinking water and PFAS regulation.

“The West’s water is served by the Bureau of Reclamation, or if you look at the Delta Regional Authority, it helps 10 million people in the Delta Region. And more than 400 counties from Mississippi to West Virginia are served by the Appalachian Regional Commission. The Great Lakes deserves no less.” — Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) speaking about her bill to establish a Great Lakes Authority. The authority would promote economic development and environmental restoration in the eight-state region.

By the Numbers

$420 Million: Funding from the federal infrastructure bill that will be spent by the Bureau of Reclamation in 2022 on rural water supply projects. The projects are located in six states: Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota.

48 Percent: Amount, in 2021, that hydropower generation in California was below the 10-year average. Little rain and high temperatures depleted the state’s reservoirs.

News Briefs

Water Pollution Standards in Washington State
In another back-and-forth for federal policy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intends to reverse a Trump-era decision and reinstate water pollution standards in Washington state from 2016, a move designed to protect people belonging to Native American tribes, who consume more fish than the average person.

The EPA is reverting to its judgment during the Obama administration, when it determined that Washington’s standards were not based on sound science and needed to be revised. The standards, the agency argues, do not account for cumulative pollution burdens or the tendency for pollutants to accumulate in fish tissues.

EPA Reaffirms Decision Not to Regulate Chemical in Rocket Fuel
A rare example of policy not rocking back and forth between administrations.

The EPA announced that it will uphold a Trump administration decision not to regulate the chemical perchlorate in drinking water, concluding that the chemical does not occur frequently enough or at high enough levels for a national rule. A decade ago, the agency said that between 5 million and 16 million people could be affected by perchlorate.

Instead of a national regulation, EPA officials offered other steps for addressing a chemical that is linked with impaired brain development in fetuses. The agency is focused on cleaning up sites where groundwater is contaminated with the chemical.

Another action the agency will take is to study the presence of perchlorate in surface waters after fireworks shows. The chemical is an ingredient in the colorful explosions.

Studies and Reports

EPA Strategic Plan
Reducing carbon pollution in the atmosphere and ensuring that pollution is not targeting poor areas and communities of color are the top priorities in the EPA’s five-year strategic plan.

Other priorities include enforcing the law, clean air and water, community revitalization, and chemical safety.

These goals are developed with numeric targets in mind. For water, the agency wants to reduce the number of community water systems that violate health standards from 752 to 500. In Indian Country, it wants to bring the number down from 110 to 70. It also aims to provide basic sanitation for 36,500 homes in Indian Country.

On the Radar

PFAS Review Panel Meetings
An expert group that is advising the EPA on the scientific justification for regulating two PFAS chemicals in drinking water will hold two public meetings in May.

The Science Advisory Board’s PFAS Review Panel will meet on May 3 and May 6.

To register, email shallal.suhair@epa.gov.

National Drinking Water Advisory Council Meeting
The expert group that advises the EPA on drinking water matters will hold a public meeting on April 19.

The agenda and registration details will eventually be posted here.

Senate Hearing
On April 5, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing on drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

Witnesses include the mayor of Newark, representatives of rural water and clean water organizations, and the head of the EPA enforcement office during the Trump administration.

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.

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