Lawmakers Introduce House Version of TCE Reduction Bill

U.S. Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.) on March 3 introduced a bill to help communities deal with trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination. The TCE Reduction Act, which Hall is co-sponsoring with U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set stricter regulations to protect the public from exposure to TCE.

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) introduced a similar bill in August 2007. The Senate bill would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to protect the health of susceptible populations, including pregnant women, infants, and children, by requiring a health advisory, drinking water standard, and reference concentration for trichloroethylene vapor intrusion, and for other purposes.

"Growing scientific evidence shows the danger TCE pollution poses to people," said Hall. "Yet the EPA continues to drag its feet instead of setting a new standard."

TCE and other contaminants have plagued Hopewell Junction, N.Y., residents as the result of Hopewell Precision’s disposal of painting and degreasing wastes directly on the ground, resulting in a 1.5-mile-long groundwater contamination plume. Chemicals have been detected in local drinking water wells and many homes have experienced significant problems caused by vapor intrusion. The site was listed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund National Priority List in 2005. 

In 2001, a draft EPA Risk Assessment found TCE to be as much as 40 times more carcinogenic than previously thought, but instead of setting a more protective standard for TCE in drinking water, the agency called for more study. The National Research Council (NRC) was directed to conduct an in-depth study of the health studies involving TCE. The final NRC report, issued in 2006, found that "the evidence on carcinogenic risk and other health hazards from exposure to trichloroethylene has strengthened since 2001." The report went on to say, "The committee recommends that federal agencies finalize their risk assessment with currently available data so that risk management decisions can be made expeditiously."

"No action has been taken by the EPA to update the water standard," stated Debra Hall of Hopewell Junction Citizens for Clean Water. "There is no federal standard to deal with vapor intrusion even though this is a very dangerous environmental issue."

Hopewell Junction resident Sharon Whalen testified that her father developed prostate cancer after living in her home. The house was also dubbed "the sick house" because everyone living there became almost constantly ill. Whalen's home is impacted by vapor intrusion only and at the highest amount of the entire Superfund site.

The TCE Reduction Act addresses both groundwater contamination and vapor intrusion caused by TCE and would require EPA to:

• Issue a revised health advisory for TCE within 6 months of enactment.
• Issue revised draft health standards for TCE in drinking water within 12 months of enactment, and final drinking water standards within 18 months.
• Issue a health advisory standard for TCE vapor intrusion within 12 months of enactment.
• Establish an integrated risk information system reference concentration for TCE vapor within 18 months of enactment.
• Ensure that all standards set under the bill fully protect susceptible populations (including pregnant women, infants, and children) from the adverse health affects of TCE.

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