Boxer: EPA's Record No Reason to Celebrate

During Drinking Water Week, Sen. Barbara Boxer, majority chair of the Environment and Public Works committee, said there was no reason to celebrate "until the U.S. Environmental protection Agency sets scientifically based health standards for dangerous tap water contaminants and strictly enforces the law."

Those words came from Boxer's opening statement for the May 6 committee hearing on perchlorate and trichloroethylene.

The senator said that delays on these contaminants are not protecting children and families.

She cited facts from the General Accountability Office and the Centers for Disease Control saying that in 2005, there were nearly 400 sites in 35 states contaminated with perchlorate, including 106 in California, and in 2006, scientists found "widespread human exposure to perchlorate" in the United States, including in young children. In addition, a January 2008 study by the Food and Drug Administration found perchlorate in 74 percent of all foods tested, including baby food.

EPA's action on this front includes revoking its rule requiring some water systems to monitor for perchlorate and disclose tests results to the public; saying it had enough data for water supplies; then saying it did not have enough data on exposure, especially from food, to regulate perchlorate in drinking water, according to her statement.

The agency did issue guidance for perchlorate cleanup at toxic waste sites, but based this level on a 154-pound adult whose only exposure to perchlorate is from drinking water, Boxer added.

For TCE, EPA proposed a risk assessment in 2001 that found the chemical could be up to 40 times more toxic than previously thought. In 2002, EPA's Science Advisory Board commended EPA's assessment and urged the agency to proceed with revising and finalizing it.

In 2006, the National Academy of Sciences found that evidence of TCE's cancer risks had grown since 2001, and recommended that EPA "finalize risk assessments using currently available data so that [cleanups] can be made expeditiously."

The General Accountability Office has reported that EPA will not finalize its TCE assessment until 2010.

"I told EPA last week that if the Bush Administration failed to protect our people, Congress would step in," Boxer said.

The senator said she has two bills to protect people from perchlorate contamination:

• "Perchlorate Monitoring and Right to Know Act," S. 24, says that EPA is to restore the rule requiring that drinking water be tested for perchlorate, and that the results of those tests must be disclosed to the public.

• "Protecting Pregnant Women and Children from Perchlorate Act," S. 150, requires EPA to quickly set a perchlorate standard for drinking water that protects pregnant women and children.

In addition, the "TCE Reduction Act," S. 1911, would protect people exposed the TCE.

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