The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will no longer regulate or limit the chemical compound perchlorate in drinking water, the latest in a staggering number of environmental rules rolled back by the Trump administration.

Perchlorate is a chemical compound that is commonly used by the defense and aerospace industries for the production of rocket propellants, munitions, fireworks, airbag initiators for vehicles, matches, signal flares, and in some electroplating processes.

water testing 2 EPA rolls back regulation limiting toxic perchlorate chemicals in drinking waterThe EPA issued a final action repealing perchlorate regulations on June 18, saying that measures taken by the EPA, states, and public water systems have effectively managed the perchlorate pollution problem.

In its announcement, the EPA said that the rollback “fulfills Presidents Trump’s promise to pare back burdensome ‘one-size-fits-all’ overregulation for the American people.”

The American people, however, are the ones who will suffer should big polluters, “unburdened” by the perchlorate restrictions, take advantage of the rollback and release the chemical into the environment, possibly with impunity.

The perchlorate regulations were passed in 2011 after numerous scientific studies demonstrated the need for restrictions at the federal level. The American Water Works Association (AWWA), the water utility industry’s biggest trade association, has recommended for years that EPA set a standard for the chemical in drinking water.

The chemical, which is usually transferred to humans via drinking water, is known to cause infant brain damage, thyroid cancer, and a spectrum of other thyroid problems. Perchlorate exposure can also cause a multitude of other symptoms, including eye, skin and respiratory tract irritation, coughing, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

There are a number of ongoing state and federal remediation efforts to reduce perchlorates in drinking water sources. The EPA said these efforts, as well as perchlorate regulations in Massachusetts and California, were among the reasons for the rollback.

“State and local water systems are effectively and efficiently managing levels of perchlorate,” the EPA said. “Our state partners deserve credit for their leadership on protecting public health in their communities, not unnecessary federal intervention.”

Lack of federal intervention, however, means that communities in areas affected by perchlorates are left exposed, especially where state and local leaders are beholden to commercial interests.

A recent New York Times analysis determined that the Trump administration has revoked or rolled back 66 environmental regulations – eight of which have been repealed since late April as most of the nation’s attention was fixed on the coronavirus pandemic.

Erik Olson, senior strategic director for health at the Natural Resources Defense Council told the New York Times that the EPA’s rollback of perchlorate regulations is “illegal, unscientific and unconscionable.”

“EPA’s cynical decision to defy a court order and the law, and to ignore the science that, as the American Academy of Pediatrics has said, dictates a strong perchlorate standard to protect vulnerable kids, is a deeply disturbing violation of the agency’s mission. It must be reversed,” Mr. Olson said.

Water contamination litigation

Beasley Allen lawyers in our Toxic Torts Section are investigating other PFC contamination cases. If you have any questions, contact Rhon Jones, Rick Stratton, or Ryan Kral, lawyers in the Section.

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