DRINKING WATER:

EPA to streamline regs, tighten standards for 4 carcinogens

U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced new strategies today aimed at curbing contaminants in drinking water.

The agency's new approach seeks to streamline decisionmaking while expanding protections, Jackson told a gathering of metropolitan water suppliers in Washington, D.C.

The strategy, Jackson said, contains four key components: addressing contaminants in groups rather than individually, fostering the development of new treatment technologies, using multiple statutes to safeguard water supplies, and enhancing state and local partnerships.

"It's an approach that works within existing law and capitalizes on the idea of new innovations," Jackson told the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies' annual conference. "The plan does not require more regulation, but uses our existing regulations more efficiently and more effectively."

EPA's current approach to protecting drinking water involves assessing each individual contaminant, which can take many years, according to the agency. The new strategy seeks to achieve protections more quickly and cost-effectively with strategies like advanced treatment technologies that address several pollutants at once.

Additionally, Jackson said, the agency plans to use programs in tandem to address water pollution, rather than view them in so-called silos. Jackson said EPA can use the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, which regulates pesticides, as well as the Toxic Substances Control Act to assess the risk of chemicals and stop contaminants before they get into drinking water.

EPA today also announced a decision to revise the existing drinking water standards for four contaminants that can cause cancer.

After a recent scientific review, the agency has decided to tighten regulations for the carcinogenic compounds tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, acrylamide and epichlorohydrin.

Tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene are used in industrial and textile processing and can enter drinking water from contaminated ground water or surface water. Acrylamide and epichlorohydrin are impurities that can enter drinking water during water treatment.

Within a year, EPA plans to initiate a rulemaking to revise the tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene standards using the agency's new strategy. EPA will later revise the epichlorohydrin and acrylamide standards and will consider whether the new streamlined approach is appropriate.

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