For Immediate Release Contact: Peter Rafle
April 12, 2007 (202) 228-3102 direct, (202) 302-7086 cell

Statement of Senator Boxer on EPA’s Failure to Set Drinking Water Standards for Perchlorate and MTBE

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, made the following remarks in response to today’s announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency will again postpone a decision on whether to issue safety standards for perchlorate and MTBE in drinking water.

Senator Boxer said, “It is simply unacceptable that EPA would postpone, yet again, a decision on whether to protect our children and families from the dangerous chemical perchlorate. Just last December EPA discontinued testing for perchlorate in tap water. I am outraged that EPA has yet again refused to do its duty to protect the health of our families and communities from perchlorate pollution. I have introduced two bills on perchlorate—one to require testing and public disclosure of contamination, the other ordering EPA to quickly set a standard. It is clear that action is needed.”

"I am also outraged that they are still refusing to set a standard to protect our tap water from the gasoline additive MTBE, which contaminates drinking water wells across the country. EPA is failing to do its job.”

Perchlorate is a component of rocket fuel that EPA data shows contaminates the drinking water systems serving tens of millions of Americans across the country, as well as many foods and breast milk. EPA has adopted a “reference dose” for perchlorate, and the National Academy of Sciences has issued a study recommending a safe level for the chemical. Perchlorate is especially risky to pregnant women and young infants because it can interfere with hormones that help babies develop properly.

Senator Boxer introduced two bills on perchlorate on the first day of Congress, both cosponsored by Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). The first bill (S. 24) would assure that tap water is tested for this toxin, and that the public is told if it is found in their water. The second bill (S. 150) would order EPA to quickly establish a drinking water standard that protects pregnant women, children, and other vulnerable people from perchlorate.

MTBE is a gasoline additive that moves quickly in the environment and has caused widespread contamination of drinking water wells across the country. EPA said in 1997 that MTBE is a potential carcinogen, but has never set a tap water standard for the chemical.

EPA also decided that it will not set tap water standards for 11 other chemicals. This is the second such refusal to regulate (the first came in 2003), maintaining the agency's record of failing to regulate any new contaminants from its Contaminant Candidate List since the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments were enacted.