Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | November 17, 2008

Lawyer Sanders says internal dispute at EPA raging from agency’s use of flawed computer model showing no harmful health effects to humans from perchlorate in drinking water supplies in 35 states.

A while back, we wrote about U.S. EPA’s extension of the public comment period on the agency’ preliminary decision that it would not regulate perchlorate, an oxidizer in rocket fuel under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  The decision caught many members of the public and environmental groups completely off-guard and raised a nationwide uproar.  As a result, instead of finalizing its preliminary decision, the agency extended the public comment period on whether EPA should regulate perchlorate under the Safe Drinking Water act. 

Now, the basis for the extension of time is slowly coming to light.  U.S. EPA scientific advisers warned managers at EPA Headquarters in Washington that the agency should delay final action on its decision because the computer model underlying the decision may have flaws.  EPA relied heavily on a computer model created by the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, which has yet to be fully checked by other scientists.  That means, the mathematical model was not peer reviewed by other qualified scientists to make sure the results were fair and unbiased.

As matters stand now, EPA’s preliminary decision may be biased towards letting the makers and users of perchlorate off the hook for polluting drinking water supplies in 35 different states.  Because of the wealth of scientific information on the toxicity of perchlorate on humans, not regulating perchlorate in drinking water seems illogical at best and highly political at worst.  Perchlorate accumulates in the body from consuming water, milk, lettuce and other common products and has been linked in scientific studies to thyroid problems in pregnant women, newborns and infants.

In a letter last week, the heads of EPA’s Science Advisory Board and its drinking water committee urged EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson to extend the public comment period on its preliminary determination to not regulate perchlorate. That decision is set to become final next month.  Amazingly, the decision not to regulate perchlorate comes at the end of the wretchedly failed leadership of Administrator Johnson and the Bush-Chaney Administration.

“Given perchlorate’s wide occurrence and well-documented toxicity to humans, the [Science Advisory Board] strongly believes that there must be a compelling scientific basis to support a scientific determination not to regulate perchlorate as a national drinking water contaminant,” Advisory Board Chairwoman Deborah L. Swackhamer and Joan B. Rose, chairwoman of the board’s drinking water committee, wrote November 5 to Administrator Johnson. 

EPA’s extension of the public comment period will not be the last of this issue.  As I predicted earlier, if EPA goes ahead and attempts to ram this decision through at the midnight hour, look for litigation to ensure.  All the while, millions of Americans will be drinking water contaminated with perchlorate.  Eventually, I predict that perchlorate will be regulated as a contaminant under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. 

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