EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced during testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on February 2 that the agency will move forward with the development of a regulation for perchlorate to protect Americans from any potential health impacts, while also continuing to take steps to ensure the quality of the water they drink. The decision to undertake a first-ever national standard for perchlorate reverses a decision made by the previous administration and comes after Administrator Jackson ordered EPA scientists to undertake a thorough review of the emerging science of perchlorate. Perchlorate is both a naturally occurring and man-made chemical, and scientific research indicates that it may impact the normal function of the thyroid, which produces important developmental hormones. Based on this potential concern, EPA will move forward with proposing a formal rule. This process will include receiving input from key stakeholders as well as submitting any formal rule to a public comment process.
EPA will also be developing one regulation covering up to 16 chemicals that may cause cancer. This group of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are chemicals such as industrial solvents, includes trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) as well as other regulated and some unregulated contaminants that are discharged from industrial operations. The VOC standard will be developed as part of EPA’s Drinking Water Strategy laid out by Administrator Jackson in 2010, A key principle of the strategy is to address contaminants as groups rather than individually in order to provide public health protections more quickly and also allow utilities to more effectively and efficiently plan for improvements.
During the hearing, Jackson also stated that EPA is likely to regulate hexavalent chromium in tap water but only after completing its health assessment study of the toxic contaminant which is under peer review while other studies have demonstrated the carcinogenicity of hexavalent chromium in drinking water. Jackson also told the committee the regulatory process for hexavalent chromium would take up to two years, which would include the completion of the human health assessment study and the ensuing public comment period.