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EPA Pledges to Clean Up Drinking Water Taps

At a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to discuss clean drinking water, today, Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the agency would be setting the first-ever standard to limit perchlorate in our water. Perchlorate is a toxic rocket fuel ingredient that is especially harmful to fetuses, babies and young children.

Jackson said between 5 and 17 million Americans are exposed to this chemical in their water. She also detailed the agency’s plan to protect Americans from hexavalent chromium leaking into tap water, which made headlines a few weeks ago after the Environmental Working Group testing water found the carcinogenic chemical in 31 out of 35 tested cities. This hearing is on the heels of a report Earthjustice and other groups released yesterday showing that several leaking coal ash sites also are contaminated with hexavalent chromium.

During the hearing, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) mentioned constituents in Prince George’s County who have had to boil their drinking water due to water main breaks. He also mentioned the report by Earthjustice, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Environmental Integrity Project, expressing further concern about the new link between coal ash and hexavalent chromium.

And while EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer reminded everyone that the hearing was on safe drinking water, several senators veered decidedly off-course; among them Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and John Barrasso (R-WY), who continued to voice their discontent toward the EPA for lawfully regulating air pollution caused by carbon emissions. (This week, Sen. Barrasso introduced legislation that would block the EPA’s ability to limit air pollution under a series of environmental acts, including the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. Sen. Inhofe was a co-sponsor of this legislation and also helped Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) author a bill, that will drop today, that will further limit EPA’s authority to clean up our air.)

But Sen. Frank Lautenburg pointed out that clean, safe drinking water is essential for the health and well being of all Americans—especially our children.

And in response to Sen. Inhofe’s early mention of his grandchildren, Lautenberg said: “Their beauty will be significantly enhanced if their water isn’t attacking their well-being.”

When the question of science was raised, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said the institute has funded research to study chemicals in our environment and that there are concerns regarding perchlorate and hexavalent chromium.

Administrator Jackson concluded her testimony with these words: “Clean and safe drinking water is the foundation of healthy communities and economies.” It is not a luxury “but the right of every single American.”

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