From The Washington Post (Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin):
The Environmental Protection Agency has decided not to limit perchlorate, a chemical that has long been detected in the drinking water of many Americans and linked to potential brain damage in fetuses and newborns and thyroid problems in adults, according to two agency officials briefed on the matter.
They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision hasn’t been announced.
The move, which comes despite the fact that the EPA faces a court order to establish a national standard for the chemical compound by the end of June, marks the latest shift in a long-running fight over whether to curb the chemical used in rocket fuel.
Under President Barack Obama, the EPA had announced in 2011 that it planned to set the first enforceable limits on perchlorate because of its potential health impacts. Both the Defense Department and military manufacturers have long resisted any restrictions on the chemical, which is also used in fireworks, munitions and other ignition devices. It naturally occurs in some areas, such as parts of the Southwest.
In an email Thursday, EPA spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer said the agency “has not yet made a final decision” on whether to limit perchlorate in drinking water. “The next step in the process is to send the final action to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review,” she said. “The agency expects to complete this step shortly.”
The New York Times first reported the agency’s decision.
The EPA also issued a news release Thursday in which Administrator Andrew Wheeler hailed the fact that levels of perchlorate exposure have declined since 2011. Though no federal standards regulating perchlorate levels in drinking water exist, some states have already acted to reduce the amounts in their drinking water systems. California and Massachusetts, for example, have set limits for perchlorate at levels far lower than what the EPA had previously proposed.