Standards for perchlorate in drinking water supplies will be developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the first time in the agency’s history. Perchlorate, which is both man-made and naturally occurring, is a component of rocket fuel, fireworks and explosives. The toxic chemical, which can disrupt the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones that are critical to developing fetuses and infants, has been detected in drinking water systems.
The decision to undertake a first-ever national standard for perchlorate reverses a decision made by the previous Bush administration and comes after EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson ordered agency scientists to undertake a thorough review of the emerging science of perchlorate.
According to an EPA statement, monitoring data show more than 4 percent of public water systems have detected perchlorate and between 5 million and 17 million people may be served drinking water containing the toxic substance.
Based on this potential concern, the EPA said it will move forward with proposing a formal rule on percholrate. This process will include receiving input from key stakeholders as well as submitting any formal rule to a public comment process. The agency will continue to evaluate the science on perchlorate health effects and occurrence in public water systems, and will also begin to evaluate the feasibility and affordability of treatment technologies to remove perchlorate and will examine the costs and benefits of potential standards.
The EPA plans to publish the proposed regulation within 24 months and it expects to promulgate a final regulation within 18 months of the proposal.
In a separate action, the EPA said it is also moving towards establishing a drinking water standard to address a group of up to 16 toxic chemicals that may pose risks to human health.
“Clean water is critical to the health and prosperity of every American community and a fundamental concern to every American family. EPA is hard at work on innovative ways to improve protections for the water we drink and give to our children, and the development of these improved standards is an important step forward,” Jackson said in a statement. “Our decisions are based on extensive review of the best available science and the health needs of the American people.”