Utilities want to use EPA chemicals law to protect drinking water

2020-08-10

A pair of water associations are teaming up to urge the EPA to use all its regulatory tools to safeguard drinking water as it decides whether to allow new chemicals into U.S. commerce.

The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA), which represents state, tribal, and territorial water agency officials, recently joined the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, which represents publicly owned metropolitan drinking water suppliers, to routinely flag their concerns about new chemicals to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The entry of public water officials into debates on the EPA’s decisions about new chemicals—ones that have never been made in or imported into the U.S.—is spurred by the growing recognition of the Toxic Substances Control Act’s (TSCA) potential to affect public health, the environment, numerous industries, and the economy. States are also wrestling with emerging contaminants like 1,4-dioxane and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which get into drinking water sources.

The two water groups have met with the EPA’s chemicals office, which has responded to some of their requests to make it easier to find some of the agency’s environmental and other analyses, said Wendi Wilkes, ASDWA’s regulatory and legislative affairs manager. The EPA uses such analyses to decide whether a new chemical can be made or imported, and if, for example, its releases to water should be restricted or banned.

“We’re mostly trying to start a conversation,” said Stephanie Hayes Schlea, director of regulatory and scientific affairs for metropolitan water group known as AMWA.

The groups’ goal is to protect source water, senior staff from both associations said in a recent joint interview. Keeping problematic new chemicals out of water would help avoid higher water bills for ratepayers, caused when water companies have to upgrade technologies to remove new kinds of pollutants, Schlea said.

Perspectives from groups like AMWA and ASDWA are a valuable part of the agency’s efforts to improve its new chemicals program, EPA spokeswoman Molly Block said.

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Bloomberg Law, 10 August 2020
; https://news.bloomberglaw.com/environment-and-energy/utilities-want-to-use-epa-chemicals-law-to-protect-drinking-water