2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 20 Jun 2003 19:15:47 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Pentagon Pulls Perchlorate Plan
June 20, 2003 
Pentagon Backs Off Water-Test Plan
Fuel-Ingredient Perchlorate Is Center
Of Fight With EPA on Studies Near Bases


The Pentagon is backing off a proposal to test for perchlorate at all
defense sites in the U.S. in response to complaints from uniformed
officials that it was too costly and unnecessary.

The Environmental Protection Agency for more than two years has been
urging the Pentagon to test the groundwater beneath all its bases for
perchlorate, a component of solid rocket fuel that pollutes water
supplies in 20 states and that the EPA says may damage infant
development. But the Defense Department resisted widespread testing,
arguing that it should instead focus on sites where the substance is
known to have been handled and where it poses a demonstrable threat to
public drinking water.

The EPA seemed to gain the upper hand earlier this month when the office
of John Paul Woodley Jr., assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for
the environment, circulated draft guidelines that would have mandated
perchlorate testing of all active, inactive and closed defense sites. It
also would have compelled the military services to "plan and program for
future cleanup" in places where the groundwater is found to contain
perchlorate in levels above one part per billion. That threshold marked
an additional concession to the EPA because its toxicologists believe
that anything above that level is unsafe, while military scientists say
that as much as 200 parts per billion is safe.

But some of the uniformed services complained that such comprehensive
testing was unmerited and would consume tens of millions of dollars from
scarce environmental-cleanup budgets, Defense Department officials said.
So the proposal was scrapped, with Mr. Woodley now saying the draft
guidelines "don't necessarily reflect my thinking." He added, "We're
engaged with the services on deciding what steps we should take during
this period of regulatory uncertainty."

This winter, after stiff opposition from the Pentagon and the White
House, the EPA asked the National Academies of Science to review its
draft report on how much perchlorate should be deemed dangerous to
public health. The delay likely will add at least a year to the EPA's
long process for setting a drinking-water standard.

Mr. Woodley said that in the meantime, any Pentagon testing guidelines
would reflect "a great deal of deference" to scientific uncertainties
about perchlorate's health effects. "Testing is something we should do,
and probably will do eventually, but it's a question of priorities," he
said, while acknowledging that "every military base has, at one time or
another, had munitions that included a perchlorate component."

The aborted testing proposal has caused confusion at some bases. At Mare
Island Naval Shipyard near San Francisco, Navy cleanup coordinator Jerry
Dunaway announced the guidelines at a recent community meeting and
agreed for the first time to a longstanding EPA request to test the base
perchlorate. Later, he found out the draft guidelines were moot and
rescinded his announcement.

"It's troublesome to have directives around that create an incomplete
characterization of a site," said Emily Roth, EPA's project manager for
Mare Island. "We'll never sign off on this site without perchlorate sampling."

The draft guidelines from Mr. Woodley's office were issued at a time
when some senators concerned about the perchlorate issue, including
California Democrat Barbara Boxer, were holding up his nomination to the
new post of assistant secretary of the Army in charge of the Army Corps
of Engineers' civil works. The Senate has yet to act on his nomination.

"Our policy is under constant review," Mr. Woodley said. "This was a
draft for the purpose of attracting views." 


for the entire story, see
subscription required

  Prev by Date: [CPEO-MEF] Cal/EPA Advisory Committee on Environmental Justice
Next by Date: [CPEO-MEF] Weapons of Mass Deception
  Prev by Thread: [CPEO-MEF] Cal/EPA Advisory Committee on Environmental Justice
Next by Thread: [CPEO-MEF] Weapons of Mass Deception

CPEO Lists
Author Index
Date Index
Thread Index