According to The New York Times, the Environmental Protection Agency succumbed to pressure from the Department of Defense and watered down proposed guidelines regulating groundwater contamination levels caused by toxic substances which pollute the drinking water consumed by millions of Americans.
The new standards released on Thursday by the EPA completely eliminated a section dedicated to how the agency would have dealt with what it has called “immediate threats posed by hazardous waste sites.”
In recent years, exposure to the type of noxious chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) has been tied to higher risk of cancer and high cholesterol, along with a variety of other diseases. Studies in animals also revealed delays in development.
The proposed standards, which are currently open for 45 days of public discussion before they will be completed, will likely impact the Pentagon the most. The Defense Department has commonly used chemicals related to PFAS as a tool to fight fires and has “confirmed the release or the possible release of the chemicals at 401 locations nationwide, in some cases contaminating known drinking water supplies,” The New York Times reports.
The Pentagon has pressured the EPA to change the language it uses to set cleanup standards for the past year. In the initial version of the proposal, the environmental agency mandated that a level of water contamination could warrant immediate action. The level in the initial document was 400 parts per trillion for two types of PFAS. But in the latest version, the recommendation is gone.
People living in places with polluted water have urged the EPA for months to demand cleanup. These locations include areas near the Colorado Peterson Air Force Base, the former New Hampshire Pease Air Force Base, the New York Stewart Air National Guard Base, the Ohio Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and the New Mexico Cannon Air Force Base.