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Wednesday, May 7

Rocket Fuel in Drinking Water: Who Will Clean it Up?

“Like lambs to the slaughter, they’re drinking the water…”
-Tom Lehrer

Our drinking water is full of rocket fuel. Who will clean it up?

The EPA said Tuesday that there's a "distinct possibility" it won't take action to rid drinking water of a toxic rocket fuel ingredient, perchlorate, which has contaminated public water supplies found in at least 395 sites in 35 states. So why is this?

Democratic senators called this “unacceptable” and argued “states and local communities shouldn’t have to bear the expense of cleansing their drinking water or the risk of not doing so.” Perchlorate interferes with thyroid function and poses developmental health risks, particularly to fetuses. In addition, the toxic chemical has also been found in lettuce and other foods. It is reported that 81 percent of perchlorate intake by infants comes from baby foods and dairy foods.

At a Senator hearing yesterday, Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, “chided” Benjamin Grumbles, Assistant Administrator for Water at the Environmental Protection Agency, saying

“EPA is trying to shunt the scientists to the back, put the DOD contractors to the front.”

Grumbles told Boxer that “instead of a regulation, the EPA would issue a public health advisory.” Splendid! And what kind of “advisory” would that be? “Drink Contaminated Drinking Water at Your Own Risk”? Thanks a lot, EPA…

The good news is that Senator Boxer has introduced legislation that she plans to bring to a committee vote in June that would require the EPA to set a drinking water standard. Committee Republicans said Congress should stand back and let the EPA finish its work.

“We want to see action by the scientists. We want to see a standard set.”

Grumbles’ maintained that after years of study, the EPA has yet to determine whether actually regulating perchlorate in drinking water “would do much good.” In other words, the EPA can “regulate” contaminated water until the cows come home, which, unfortunately, does not address the real problem: the need to clean it up and prevent further contamination.

Clean up the water at what cost? All the more reason to get out of Iraq and route military spending back home. Or how about scotching plans for buying all of those flat screen tee-vees and instead pooling those tax rebate checks to the collective tune of Bush’s $170 billion economic stimulus package?

Maybe this wouldn’t quite be the nation’s leading Retailer’s wet dream, but at least we could all rest a little easier knowing that when, as Tom Lehrer sings, “we turn on our tap,” we don’t get “hot and cold running crud.”

Losing the War on Humor

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