EPA Defends Water Policy Amid Contamination Worries

The scandal over lead in the water supply of Flint, Mich., thrust water contamination into the spotlight in recent months, but high chemical levels in small northeastern towns drew additional ire from environmental advocates.

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The Environmental Protection Agency is defending its handling of drinking water issues amid findings of elevated contaminant levels around the country.

The scandal over lead in the water supply of Flint, Mich., thrust water contamination into the spotlight in recent months, but high chemical levels in small northeastern towns drew additional ire from environmental advocates.

New York officials last month ordered Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International to fund the cleanup of a plant that contaminated the water supply of Hoosick Falls with perfluorooctanoic acid.

The chemical was also found in the water of nearby Petersburgh, New York, and North Bennington, Vermont.

Perfluorooctanoic acid — also known as PFOA or C8 — was widely used in industry for decades, most notably as the key ingredient in non-stick coating.

Its use was phased out in recent years due to links to serious health concerns — including under an EPA settlement with DuPont over the chemical in Teflon — but critics urged the agency to take stronger action.

"Where is the government that is supposed to protect people and the environment?" Delaware Riverkeeper Network Deputy Director Tracy Carluccio told the Associated Press.

The EPA responded that its potential limits on PFOA levels were stalled by testing requirements under federal law and said that it previously ordered companies to clean up dangerous chemicals.

The agency is reportedly considering a threshold of 100 parts per trillion — four times less than its current advisory limit for short-term exposure — but experts argued that the level would still likely be too high.

In addition, researchers suspect that the substances developed by chemical companies to replace PFOA likely pose similar health risks.

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