WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2019 – The Trump administration will not set legal limits for two toxic chemicals that may contaminate more than 110 million Americans’ drinking water, two sources familiar with the upcoming decision told Politico.
In his confirmation hearing last month, Andrew Wheeler, acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee the agency would announce plans soon to address the widespread contamination of the nation’s tap water with the compounds PFOA and PFOS. The two chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease and weakened childhood immunity, are the best-known members of the family of highly fluorinated compounds known as PFAS.
But Politico Pro’s Annie Snider reported today that, according to her sources, Wheeler will not move to regulate any of the PFAS family of chemicals by setting a legal limit, known as a maximum contaminant level, under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
“If these sources are right, the EPA is essentially telling the more than 110 million Americans whose water is likely contaminated with PFAS: ‘Drink up, folks,’” said EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews, Ph.D.
“The most efficient and equitable way to remove these chemicals from the nation’s drinking water supply is to use the agency’s authority to set legal limits,” said Andrews. “It’s a national problem, and it needs a national solution. Anything short of that is window dressing.”
The agency has dragged its feet on setting legal limits for PFOA and PFOS for almost 20 years. The EPA’s tests have detected PFAS pollution in the public water supplies of 16 million Americans in 33 states, but that is considered a severe underestimate of the scope of the problem.
EWG and researchers at Northeastern University have tracked 172 PFAS contamination sites in 40 states. Drawing on unreleased data from the EPA tests, EWG estimates that water supplies for as many as 110 million Americans may be contaminated.
The growing PFAS crisis found support in Congress last week on both sides of the aisle when Republicans and Democrats in the House formed a PFAS Task Force to address the urgent drinking water contamination crisis caused by these toxic fluorinated chemicals.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. www.ewg.org