|From:||Aimee Houghton <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
|Date:||3 Feb 2003 21:55:39 -0000|
|Subject:||[CPEO-MEF] EPA Reaffirms 1999 Guidelines for Perchlorate|
February 3, 2003|
EPA REAFFIRMS 1999 GUIDELINES
FOR PERCHLORATE, PENDING STUDY
By Peter Waldman
Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, treading lightly on an issue fraught with Pentagon opposition, reaffirmed its 1999 guidelines for addressing water pollution caused by the rocket-fuel component perchlorate, pending completion of a new risk assessment in coming months.
Meanwhile, the new chairman of the U.S. Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, weighed into the health debate over perchlorate on the side of the defense industry, which faces billions of dollars in potential cleanup costs for the pollutant. In a four-page letter to the EPA's head of research and development, dated Jan. 9 and reviewed this weekend by The Wall Street Journal, Sen. Inhofe reiterated the industry's questions and concerns over how the agency reached its draft finding last year that perchlorate is hazardous in drinking water above one part per billion. The defense industry argues perchlorate is safe at concentrations up to 200 ppb.
The EPA's latest "guidance" for perchlorate was outlined in an internal memo dated Jan. 22 by Marianne Lamont Horinko, the agency's assistant administrator for toxic-waste cleanup. It instructs agency personnel to continue using the EPA's 1999 cleanup benchmark of four to 18 ppb of perchlorate in drinking water. However, in deference to the agency's draft risk assessment last year that found health dangers above one ppb, Ms. Horinko told field personnel "to carefully consider the low end of the provisional four-to-18-ppb range."
The new EPA guidance is the first time a political appointee of this Bush administration has set policy on perchlorate, which has become a bone of bitter contention between senior professionals of the EPA and Department of Defense. Regulators at EPA field offices say the Horinko memo deftly balances the agency's duty to "follow the science" in dealing with perchlorate with sensitivity to Pentagon and defense-industry claims that evidence of the chemical's toxicity is still in doubt.
"This memo is as clear a signal as we've had, from high up in EPA management, that they're not putting perchlorate on the back burner," an EPA regulator in the field said.
For example, the memo strongly reasserts the EPA's authority under federal antipollution laws to regulate perchlorate, in contrast to claims by Defense Department officials in recent months that the EPA, until it promulgates a national drinking-water standard, can't order testing and cleanup of perchlorate. Ms. Horinko, in the memo, also sets out an ambitious timetable for finalizing the agency's so-called reference dose for perchlorate over the coming months, the first step in the years-long process of issuing a formal standard.
On the other hand, the memo resolves a crucial technical question in favor of polluters, by instructing regulators to base site-specific cleanup benchmarks on the average body weight of adults instead of those of fetuses, infants and pregnant mothers -- the populations deemed most at risk from perchlorate ingestion. (Body weight is a pivotal variable in determining acceptable exposure levels of all environmental pollutants.)
To view the full article please click on the following link:
WSJ.com - EPA Reaffirms 1999 Guidelines For Perchlorate , Pending Study*
Aimee R. Houghton
Associate Director, CPEO
1101 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20036
tel: 202-452-8039; fax: 202-452-8095
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