EPA Decides to Keep Rocket Fuel in Drinking Water



The Environmental Protection Agency reached the conclusion that perchlorate, an ingredient found in rocket fuel and polluting almost 400 sites across the country, should remain in the public’s drinking water. Perchlorate has been linked to developmental health risks in babies and fetuses, as well as believed to interfere with thyroid function in high enough levels. These high levels have been found in 35 states so far.

The EPA states in a document that a clean-up mandate for perchlorate will not offer “meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public-water systems.” Benjamin Grumbles, the EPA’s assistant administrator of water adds, “We know perchlorate in drinking water presents some degree of risk, and we’re committed to working with states and scientists to ensure public health is protected and meaningful opportunities for reducing risk are fully considered.”

However, Democrats and environmentalists believe the EPA’s judgment is based more on politics than sound science. Lenny Siegel, director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight, says the decision is based on “concern that a more stringent standard could cost the government significantly.”

There is a belief that the Pentagon may face liability if a national drinking water standard is set by the EPA forces state water agencies to clean perchlorate out of their drinking water. The Defense Department used perchlorate in testing missiles and rockets for decades. As a result, most of the perchlorate contamination is due to aerospace and defense activities. The Pentagon denies they have influenced the EPA’s decision, and that they have worked for years cleaning up perchlorate at its facilities.

Perchlorate has been found in groundwater in California and the Southwest, as well as the Colorado River, which is a source of drinking water for more than 20 million people. Many states have acted on their own to set drinking water standards with perchlorate. California allows six parts per billion and Massachusetts allows two parts per billion.