EPA Covers Up Water Contamination Report

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the current administration has been notorious for cutting back environmental regulations.  The agency has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement, ended the Clean Power Plan, decreased vehicle emissions standards, and other actions which protect interests of the fossil fuel industry.

We recently learned of a potentially dangerous result of these environmental regulation cut-backs.  Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found that toxic chemicals in drinking water can be harmful at much lower levels than the EPA previously reported as safe. These chemicals are contaminating drinking water supplies near military bases, chemical manufacturing plants, and other sites across our country. The chemicals in the study include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), both of which have been linked to pregnancy problems, contamination of breast milk, some cancers, and thyroid problems, even in small amounts.

Newly disclosed e-mails between members of the EPA revealed that the agency tried to keep this information hidden to avoid conflict with the public and a negative reaction from the media. These e-mails were dated to right before the ATSDR was planning on releasing this report. The results of ATSDR study, also known as a toxicology profile, could lead to an expensive decontamination cleanup for the affected areas and surrounding neighborhoods.

It has been over three months since these e-mails were uncovered and the toxicology profile still has not been released, with no scheduled release date.

As we continue to lack federal oversight on the environment, New York State has taken a greater leadership role.  The state Drinking Water Quality Council (DWQC) has been monitoring drinking water and plans to set strict regulations, enforceable by law, on levels of PFOA and PFOS that are further below the federal suggested limit.

While our state has been working on these plans to protect public health and the environment, there is more work to be done. NYLCV, NRDC, and other environmental advocates recently sent a letter to Governor Cuomo urging the state to move faster to issue these stringent water contamination regulations. These standards help ensure that our residents are not exposed to chemicals in their drinking water that can be detrimental to our health.