Hearings - Statement
 
Statement of Frank R. Lautenberg
Hearing: Subcommittee on Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security, and Water Quality hearing entitled, “Pharmaceuticals in the Nation’s Water: Assessing Potential Risks and Actions to Address the Issue.”
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

(Remarks as prepared for delivery)

Let me welcome everyone to today’s critical hearing as we consider the impact of contaminants on our nation’s water supply—and the health hazards they pose to our residents.

Every day, all Americans across the country rely on exactly the same thing: clean and safe water.

When it comes to our drinking water, we have a reasonable expectation: that the water coming into our homes is clean—and safe.

That’s why many people were concerned about a news article that ran in March.

The Associated Press ran a story that told America what many scientists already knew.

There were small amounts of drugs in water that 41 million Americans drink every day.

The study was conducted in water systems across the country, including in New Jersey.

And while this story captured the public’s attention, there is more to it.

The untold story is the lack of regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—and the many hundreds of unregulated chemicals that it allows into America’s water supply.

In fact, there are more than 140 chemicals in our drinking water that the EPA does not regulate, according to a study by the Environmental Working Group.

This includes chemicals that are used in rocket fuel, gasoline additives and pesticides.

These are chemicals that have proven negative effects on people’s health.

Even the EPA says that some of these chemicals can cause cancer.

And for some of these chemicals, there is no health information on record in government materials.

Yet all of these chemicals are unregulated. We drink them and they end up in our environment.

We are already seeing the impacts of some of these contaminants in nature. For instance, we see male fish carrying female eggs.

That is why I am concerned—and I know the public is concerned—about the long-term impact of contaminated water.

I know many people drink bottled water. But bottled water is not the solution. In fact, 40 percent of bottled water simply comes from the tap.

Instead, we need to act by increasing funding for our crumbling water infrastructure, including our wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities.

Those facilities are responsible for cleaning up our water, and they need the resources to do it.

The EPA estimates that there is a $271 billion gap between what our wastewater treatment plants need, and what they receive.

We need to close that gap.

And we need to continue to fund research on this issue.

I was disappointed when the President’s budget cut the funding that we rely on to monitor our rivers and streams for contamination.

The story that ran in the Associated Press focused on pharmaceuticals in the water, but I hope that it will help us focus on the real problem – an EPA that has allowed far too many unregulated contaminants in our water.

I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses about how we can better protect America’s water—and the hundreds of millions of people who drink it every day.”

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