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State proposes clean-up standards for harmful contaminant

Mar 14, 2006 | AP

State environmental officials on Tuesday proposed water cleanup standards for perchlorate, a potentially harmful chemical that has been found in drinking water sources at 10 sites in Massachusetts.

Perchlorate, a rocket fuel ingredient, is used in road flares, fireworks and military munitions. The chemical has been found in dozens of states, and was first detected in Massachusetts in 2002 in the aquifer under the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod.

Perchlorate can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones, which are needed for pre- and postnatal growth and development.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's proposed standard would require responsible parties to clean up perchlorate contamination if the chemical is found in drinking water at a concentration of two parts per billion or more, a level the agency said was based on a review of scientific data. The regulation also would require regular testing for perchlorate in all public water systems.

The agency scheduled six public hearings on the proposed standards from April 10 through April 27 at locations statewide.

The proposal would give Massachusetts the first perchlorate cleanup and drinking water standards in the nation, the state agency said.

"Perchlorate is an emerging contaminant that has raised a red flag for environmental agencies and public health officials across the country," Stephen Pritchard, the state's environmental affairs secretary, said in a news release.

The federal government currently has no standard to regulate perchlorate levels in drinking water, although some members of California's congressional delegation recently urged that such a standard be adopted.

Tests conducted after Massachusetts required all drinking water systems to test for perchlorate in 2004 found perchlorate above an interim state advisory level at 10 sites: Chesterfield, Southbridge, Hadley, Williamstown, Boxborough, Millbury, Westford, Boxford, Tewksbury and Westport.

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