Hearings - Statement
Statement of Frank R. Lautenberg
Hearing: Full Committee Hearing entitled, "Oversight Hearing on Federal Drinking Water Programs."
Tuesday, December 8, 2009

(Remarks as prepared for delivery)

“Madame Chairman,

Clean, safe water is critical to our society.

It is essential for our health—and the health and well-being of our children.

That’s why it is incumbent upon us to ensure that America’s water supply is safe.

When Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, gained the authority to regulate the chemicals in our drinking water.

But even with that authority, there is still troubling evidence that chemicals and other substances are polluting the nation’s water supply.

Right now, there are more than 140 chemicals in our drinking water that the EPA does not regulate, according to one recent study.

In some parts of the country, these chemicals include gasoline additives, pesticides—and even rocket fuel.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that you should not be drinking rocket fuel.

In other parts of the country, these chemicals include additives used to produce natural gas.

The concentration of chemicals in some places is so high that you can literally light the water on fire.

These chemicals have proven negative effects on people’s health—indeed, some can cause cancer, according to the EPA.

But even so, in the past the EPA has ignored three mandatory Safe Drinking Water Act deadlines to set standards for unregulated contaminants.

And nearly 20 percent of the contaminants that EPA is currently considering for regulation have been under study at the agency for 17 years.

Some people have turned to bottled water, thinking it is a safer alternative. Bottled water is healthier than sugary, high calorie drinks. And it can be a crucial part of our safety net during natural disasters and emergencies.

But bottled water might provide a false sense of security—and an expensive one, too.

Americans spend more than $8 billion dollars a year on bottled water.

But what many people don’t know is that up to 40 percent of bottled water simply comes from the tap. That is why I am introducing the ‘Bottled Water Safety and Right to Know Act’ today.

This bill will provide consumers information about where their bottled water comes from and the quality of the water that they are drinking.

Beyond this new commitment to overseeing our bottled water, we need a renewed commitment to protecting our tap water.

First, we need to enforce the laws on the books.

And second, we need to increase funding for our crumbling water infrastructure, including our wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities.

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. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about their plans for meeting these challenges.”

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