EPA Woud Like You to Drink Rocket Fuel

Even though the pollutant perchlorate has been found to cause health risks, EPA doesn't mind that its in your drinking water.
For years, the Department of Defense has used every bureaucratic trick in its playbook, including ruthlessly exploiting its power in the Bush White House, to keep the EPA from regulating a highly toxic water pollutant, perchlorate, that largely results from the manufacture and use of rocket fuel. Perchlorate "has been found in at least 395 sites in 35 states at levels high enough to interfere with thyroid function and pose developmental health risks, particularly for babies and fetuses."

But the EPA has drafted a proposed regulatory finding that, in spite of this widespread human exposure and contamination, cleaning up perchlorate would not provide a "meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public-water systems." No explanation of this bizarre finding is offered. Perhaps none is needed.

Everyone who's paying attention knows that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is acutely tuned-in to the political signals coming from the White House -- so tuned-in that his conversations with the executive branch have become a form of highly privileged state secret. The Pentagon denied any role in the decision, asserting that "We have not intervened in any way in EPA's determination not to regulate perchlorate. If you read their determination, that's based on criteria in the Safe Drinking Water Act."

Twenty million Americans get their drinking water from just one of the water bodies that are contaminated with perchlorate -- the Colorado River. Apparently protecting twenty million people does not count as a "meaningful opportunity" to Johnson and his Deputy Administrator for Water, Ben Grumbles.

Next up -- in a few weeks the EPA must decide whether to let science or politics determine where to set public health standards for toxic lead.

I wouldn't bet on science.
Carl Pope is the Sierra Club's executive director.