ACWA Urges California to Await NAS Findings, Cites Cost Concerns of Rushing Perchlorate Standard


January 28, 2004

Contact: Jennifer Persike, ACWA Dir. of Communications and Outreach, 916-441-4545, or 916-296-3981(c) Krista Clark, ACWA Regulatory Advocate, 916-441-4545

ACWA Urges State to Consider Timing on Final Perchlorate Standard

Delay Would Allow California to Consider Findings of National Science Panel


Sacramento - The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) today called on state officials to hold off on finalizing a new drinking water health goal for perchlorate until a national panel of experts completes its review of potential health risks later this year.

In testimony before the state Senate Select Committee on Perchlorate Contamination, ACWA said the short delay is needed to ensure the final state standard reflects the best available science on perchlorate and its effects on human health. Moving forward without the benefit of the findings by the National Academy of Sciences could result in a state standard that is either too low or too high, ACWA Regulatory Advocate Krista Clark told lawmakers.

ACWA's comments focus on the current efforts by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to establish a public health goal for perchlorate. A public health goal is the analysis of the health effects of a contaminant, which forms the basis for a future drinking water standard.

"We have learned from experience that setting standards based on science rather than timelines provides the best outcome," Clark said. "Adopting a standard now and then revising it later because of the NAS findings would cost the state unnecessary funds and could require additional expenses by water utilities to retool or rebuild treatment facilities."

Perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel used in numerous industrial settings, has been detected in more than 330 water sources in California since 1997. Its potential effects on human health continue to be debated, and the Department of Health Services has yet to select an approved treatment technology for removing it from water.

ACWA stressed that the postponement would not put public health at risk because most public wells affected by perchlorate already have been taken out of service by water utilities. "Water agencies have been on the front line in dealing with this problem for years," Clark said. "It has been water agencies and their customers, in most cases, that have spent thousands of dollars on testing, investigation and replacing contaminated water supplies. They are investing even greater sums to explore and research treatment options to bring precious water supplies back into service as soon as possible."

In a letter last week to California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) Secretary Terry Tammimen, ACWA formally requested that the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) defer finalizing a public health goal for perchlorate until the national findings can be considered.

The National Academy of Sciences review, requested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is expected to produce its findings by the end of 2004.

"The regulation of perchlorate is important to the water community since numerous water sources, including the Colorado River, have been impacted due to this contaminant," ACWA wrote. "Treatment facilities or replacement water will cost millions of dollars, much of which will be paid by consumers until the responsible parties are found and held accountable. It is therefore important that the science underlying this regulation be thorough and precise to protect human health without unnecessary treatment costs."

ACWA is a statewide association whose 440 public agency members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit www.acwanet.com.

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