Association called for use of science to guide any new regulations
In testimony this week before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the American Water Works Assn. (AWWA) urged that sound, peer-reviewed science should drive regulatory decisions on perchlorate and other drinking water contaminants.
The hearing, titled “Oversight Hearing on Public Health and Drinking Water Issues,” focused on two contaminants: perchlorate and chromium-6.
During the hearing, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the agency would move forward with a perchlorate regulation, reversing a 2008 preliminary determination. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and EPA’s inspector general had previously concluded that a national regulation for perchlorate in drinking water would not present a meaningful opportunity to reduce risk as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). AWWA’s own assessment was consistent with those findings.
“EPA’s decision to move forward on perchlorate regulation is perplexing,” AWWA Deputy Executive Director Tom Curtis said following the hearing. “Water providers share the agency’s interest in protecting public health through the provision of safe water. However, the weight of scientific evidence suggests national regulation of perchlorate in drinking water does not accomplish this goal. AWWA remains committed to working with EPA and its member utilities to inform the perchlorate regulatory process as it moves forward.”
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who chaired the hearing, recently introduced two pieces of legislation that would compel EPA to issue standards for perchlorate and chromium-6. In delivering AWWA’s testimony, Charles Murray, general manager of Virginia-based Fairfax Water, called for “scientific processes and faithfulness to the Safe Drinking Water Act.”
“The bottom line is that Congress should not legislate individual drinking water standards,” Murray testified. “The SDWA was amended in 1996 to provide a scientifically sound and transparent method for selecting the appropriate substances for regulation and for selecting the appropriate maximum contaminant level for contaminants. We should allow the best available science, not the political process, to be the ultimate driver in regulatory decisions.”
Witnesses at the hearing included Jackson and members of the public health, water utility and environmental advocacy communities. Among the witnesses was a representative from the Environmental Working Group, which released a December 2010 report raising public concern about chromium-6 nationwide. EPA responded to the report just two days after its release by committing to a series of actions, including recommending water utilities monitor for the contaminant and issuing guidance on EPA-approved monitoring methods.