Federal Water Tap, October 24: EPA Reviews Drinking Water Contaminant for Human Health Impacts

The Rundown

  • A draft EPA report indicates that the drinking water contaminant hexavalent chromium can cause cancer when ingested.
  • The GAO recommends the EPA collect national data on the demographics of areas with PFAS in drinking water.
  • The EPA funds a wastewater monitoring research projects intended to prepare for future pandemics.
  • The Treasury Department charters an advisory committee for climate-related financial risk.

And lastly, Democratic committee chairs, with eyes on Jackson’s water crisis, investigate the use of federal infrastructure funds in Mississippi.

“We urge you to devote adequate funding to Jackson to ensure residents have access to safe and healthy drinking water and to avert a future water crisis.” — Letter from Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Rep. Bennie Thompson to Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves. The letter requests information on how Mississippi has spent federal infrastructure funds and how it will assist Jackson.

By the Numbers

$1 Million: Research funding for a project to investigate the rapid deployment of wastewater monitoring systems in future pandemics. Funded by an EPA grant, the project aims to identify optimal sampling sites to track local transmission. It is being helmed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

$210 Million: Federal infrastructure funds that the Interior Department allocated to water supply projects in the West. Most of this tranche — $82 million to Los Vaqueros Reservoir in California; $30 million to Sites Reservoir; $25 million to B.F. Sisk Dam — will go toward expanding or building reservoirs and their associated components.

News Briefs

Draft Toxicity Review of Hexavalent Chromium
A draft toxicity report of the drinking water contaminant hexavalent chromium indicates that the chemical likely causes cancer in the gastrointestinal tract when ingested.

The report comes from the EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System, an agency research program that is responsible for evaluating the human health hazards of chemicals.

IRIS last updated its hexavalent chromium toxicity assessment in 1998, when it determined the chemical causes cancer when inhaled but did not find enough evidence to label it as carcinogenic when ingested. Hexavalent chromium is used in paints and to prevent metal from corroding.

The EPA set a drinking water regulatory standard in 1991 for total chromium, which includes the hexavalent form. The IRIS review is a precursor to additional regulatory action, if the EPA chooses that direction.

The draft report is being reviewed by the EPA Science Advisory Board and public comments are being accepted through December 19.

For a large PDF file of the report, click here.

EPA Adds to Jackson Investigations
The EPA will investigate whether Mississippi state agencies discriminated against residents of the majority-Black city of Jackson when making funding decisions, the Associated Press reports.

The agencies under scrutiny are the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Mississippi State Department of Health.

Studies and Reports

PFAS in Drinking Water
The Government Accountability Office recommends that the EPA conduct a national analysis to determine the demographic characteristics of communities that have PFAS in their drinking water. Such information could help the agency assess burdens for disadvantaged communities.

The GAO looked at drinking water data in six states. Eighteen percent of drinking water systems in those states had two or more PFAS at concentrations above four parts per trillion. This is roughly the level at which the chemicals can reliably be detected. Those systems with PFAS detections served 29 percent of the population.

Hurricane Intensification
Researchers from NOAA and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean since 1979 are getting stronger closer to shore. They did not find a similar change in Gulf Coast hurricanes.

On the Radar

Climate-Related Financial Risk
The Treasury Department, as part of its response to climate change, chartered an advisory committee to assist with identifying and assessing climate-related risk to the financial system. The 30-member committee will report to the Financial Stability Oversight Council.

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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