Democrats have been pushing the EPA to curb levels of perchlorate, a chemical used in fireworks and explosives, for years. The Bush administration opted to loosen restrictions on the rocket fuel components in 2008, exposing an estimated 16.6 million Americans to unsafe levels in tap water, AP reports.
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson announced Wednesday that the Obama administration plans to enact a new standard for the chemical that could take up to two years to develop.
“As improved standards are developed and put in place, clean water technology innovators have an opportunity to create cutting edge solutions that will strengthen health protections and spark economic growth,” Jackson said in a statement.
Perchlorate usually taints water supplies when it is improperly disposed of at rocket testing sites, military bases and chemical plants. If the proposed standard goes into effect, the military could face liability down the line for water contamination during rocket and missile testing, AP said.
Jackson will most likely face GOP opposition over the perchlorate standard when she testifies Wednesday before a Senate panel about new EPA regulations of air pollutants, including greenhouse gas emissions. Republicans hope to introduce new legislation that would strip the EPA of its power to regulate industrial emissions.
Democrats, including California Senator Barbara Boxer, lauded the EPA’s announcement. Boxer said she was thrilled the government was “finally going to protect our families from perchlorate.”
“I will do everything I can to make sure this new protection moves forward,” Boxer said, according to AP.
Environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, also applauded the decision. Mae Wu of the NRDC writes that EPA monitoring found that 4 percent of public water supplies, providing drinking water to 17.6 million people, contained perchlorate at or above 4 parts per billion. She says contamination is present in almost every state.