EPA Decides Against Regulating Perchlorate in Drinking Water

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently published its plan to address perchlorate contamination in the nation's waters. The agency completed its review of a July 2020 determination to not regulate perchlorate in drinking water. The agency concluded that the 2020 decision is supported by the best available peer reviewed science. 

Additionally, the EPA announced multiple integrated actions aimed at protecting public health from perchlorate in drinking water. Those actions include continuing the ongoing cleanup at contaminated sites; proposing revisions to Resource Conservation and Recovery Act standards for the open burning and open detonation of waste explosives and bulk propellants; strengthening labeling requirements for hypochlorite solutions that include storage and handling information to minimize perchlorate formation; providing resources and recommendations for water systems to address perchlorate contamination; conducting studies to characterize perchlorate occurrence in ambient waters; and developing a web-based toolkit about perchlorate.

“EPA is taking action and applying the right tools to support public health protections,” says EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, a new monitoring study, financial and technical tools, and cleanup of contaminated sites will enhance protections and help ensure that communities can rely on clean and safe drinking water.”

The agency says it's committed to partnering with state co-regulators, Tribes and communities to address perchlorate. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA is providing $11.7 billion through the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds supplemental, and $4 billion in dedicated funding to address emerging contaminants. This funding is part of the single-largest investment in U.S. water infrastructure and can be used to address perchlorate and other drinking water needs. 

Investing in infrastructure will complement additional actions the agency announced recently. The EPA says it will support research to better understand perchlorate as it relates to firework displays. The agency also plans to establish a web-based toolkit to provide updated technical information to assist drinking water systems and communities that may have concerns about perchlorate contamination of their source water. The EPA anticipates that this toolkit would be available online in 2022. 

Additionally, cleaning up existing contamination and protecting drinking water sources from future contamination is central to the agency’s approach for addressing perchlorate in drinking water. The agency is working with states to address perchlorate contamination under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, also known as the Superfund program. These cleanups have already reduced perchlorate levels at some sites.

While EPA is not pursuing a drinking water regulation at this time, the agency will continue to consider new information on the health effects and occurrence of perchlorate. EPA’s decision does not impact any state standards for perchlorate. The agency will continue to consider if perchlorate should be added to future Contaminant Candidate Lists for possible regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. 


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