News Feature | March 14, 2017

Senator Introduces Bill Urging U.S. EPA To Set Stronger Drinking Water Standards

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

Gillibrand

Earlier this month, a bill that would modify the Safe Drinking Water Act and would require the U.S. EPA to set standards for chemicals such as 1,4-dioxane was introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

The bill, according to Newsday, has already been introduced to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. One of the co-sponsors of the bill, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, said that the committee will push to get the bill through.

“When it comes to drinking water, you have to live by the theory of ‘It’s better to be safe than sorry,’” Schumer said.

Gillibrand said in a statement that “We’ve seen very clearly how much damage can happen to our local drinking water supplies when toxic chemicals … aren’t monitored by the EPA.”

In her statement, Gillibrand added that the chemicals have remained unregulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, but that “This bill would move this process forward by requiring the EPA to issue a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for each of the chemicals.”

In January, both Schumer and Gillibrand urged the U.S. EPA to “prioritize and accelerate” the risk evaluation for 1,4-dioxane, a potential carcinogen found in 71 percent of Long Island water supply systems.

The environment news service reported that both senators wrote a letter to the EPA’s Acting Administrator Catherine McCabe because of the situation.

Newsday reported that “Long Island’s drinking water supplies detected perfluorinated compounds in Westhampton Beach, and 1,4-dioxane was found in trace amounts in 36 of 38 water suppliers sampled.”

There was more than 70 percent of the drinking water that had been sampled “that had detections of 1,4-dioxane at a 1-in-1 million cancer risk after prolonged exposure.”

In August, the U.S. EPA released a survey showing that 1,4-dioxane contaminated the island’s water and exceeded the national average.

“Once down the drain, the chemical is highly mobile in soil and does not easily break down, leading to contamination of groundwater-fed water sources, also known as aquifers or artesian wells,” Harry Somma, the Long Island program coordinator for Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE), said. CCE is leading a fight to establish safe drinking water standards for 1,4-dioxane in New York.

Image credit: "DISCUSSION ON VOTING RIGHTS, September 2016" Senate Democrats © 2016 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/