The EPA has decided not to issue a national regulation for perchlorate. The agency has determined the chemical ─ a component in rocket fuel, explosives, fireworks, etc., which can also occur naturally ─ does not meet the criteria for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, reports The Guardian.
The EPA reasoned that taking into account the best available science and the proactive steps that EPA, states and public water systems have taken to reduce perchlorate levels, no regulation is needed at this time.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said: “Today’s decision is built on science and local success stories and fulfills President Trump’s promise to pare back burdensome ‘one-size-fits-all’ overregulation for the American people”.
Perchlorate can disrupt the normal function of the thyroid gland in both children and adults, and it can negatively affect fetal and infant brain development and growth. A study done in 2010 by the US Government Accountability Office found perchlorate in water and other media at varying levels in 45 states.
The EPA’s decision has been criticised by experts. Former director of EPA’s water office Betsy Southerland said the decision is “shameful” and “unconscionable”. She has said the agency determined almost none of the drinking water in the US had levels of perchlorate to demand its regulation based on inappropriate modelling studies.
An Interim Health Advisory level of 15 μg/l or ppb was in place since January 2009 to assist state and local officials in addressing local contamination of perchlorate in advance of a final regulatory determination. In February 2011, during Obama’s administration, the EPA determined that perchlorate met the Safe Drinking Water Act criteria for regulation as a contaminant. The level in the EPA’s 2019 proposed rule was 56 μg/l. The states of Massachusetts and California have established their own standards at 2 ppb and 6 ppb.
The new EPA decision comes after the Natural Resources Defence Council sued to force limits on perchlorate.