EPA Perchlorate Challenge
by Guest Blogger, 5/19/2003
A Massachusetts citizen has now filed two data quality challenges with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), questioning EPA decisions and statements on perchlorate. The first challenge disputes statements by the New England Region 1 EPA that perchlorate is a carcinogen, a probable carcinogen or possible carcinogen. The petitions assert that detection of perchlorate levels in water have caused the closure of some water supplies and raised water costs in the Bourne Water District of MA. The petition cites two meetings where EPA made perchlorate statements– a Bourne Water District meeting and an October 2002 meeting of the MMR Senior Management Board (SMB). The individual claims that EPA’s statements are unfounded, citing perchlorate’s absence from the Department of Health and Human Services’ list of carcinogens, as well as communications and statements by scientists associated with EPA and EPA employees. Perchlorate does not directly cause cancer, but perchlorate-induced tumors result from changes in the thyroid caused by hormone interference. High doses of perchlorate cause these thyroid changes and EPA considers the chemical to be a probable carcinogen. Since 1952, when these effects were discovered, many scientific studies have supported the link between perchlorate and tumors. In 1999, EPA required drinking water monitoring for perchlorate under the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR). On August 25, EPA denied the petition. The agency asserts the data quality guidelines do not apply to the challenged information. EPA explained that it has not completed reviewing perchlorate’s health effects and has no official position on its categorization as a carcinogen. EPA also denied the statements were even made. The agency has no record of any Bourne Water District meeting statements and claims there was never an October 2002 SMB meeting. Finally, the response noted that any discussion that did occur in these meetings would be considered “informal communications that EPA did not disseminate to the public beyond their original context.” The second petition by the same individual, filed under the organization Massachusetts Military Reservation, challenges EPA's issuance of advisory levels for perchlorate. The challenger states that because the Federal EPA and Region 1 advisory levels for perchlorate are different, they violate the data quality standards for accuracy and integrity. Additionally, the challenge notes that Region 1 further breaks down advisory levels by types of situations. The petition recommends that EPA “adopt a uniform advisory level for perchlorate, even if an interim one.” While the challenge does not recommend a specific standard, it is clear that the petitioner objects to Region 1’s lower perchlorate advisory levels of one part per billion. Similar to the first challenge, the individual claims that EPA Region 1’s perchlorate information has caused the closure of water supplies contaminated by perchlorate. In addition, the second petition states that the perchlorate advisory levels affect the Camp Edwards military facility. The petitioner claims that challenged advisory levels are being used as maximum contaminant level, which threatens jobs at the facility due to reduced training, reduces competence in training, and threatens future fireworks displays. EPA has not responded to the second petition.