Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its plans to overhaul drinking water regulations. According to the New York Times, the new policies will allow officials to police dozens of contaminants simultaneously and tighten rules on the chemicals used by industries.
Although the EPA has not yet specified the exact details, the new regulations are aimed at policing the hundreds of chemicals that are linked to diseases in small concentrations but are unregulated in drinking water.
“There are a range of chemicals that have become more prevalent in our products, our water, and our bodies in the last 50 years,” said EPA administrator Lisa Jackson on Monday. The agency’s announcement, she said, is “a new vision for providing clean, safe drinking water.”
Officials have indicated that the EPA intends to reform agency policies that require regulators to examine pollutants such as lead, copper, and arsenic one at a time. By examining contaminants collectively, they say, the EPA will be able to issue new rules that apply to dozens of chemicals at a time.
“This is a dramatic change in how we think about regulations,” said Cynthia C. Dougherty, the director of the EPA’s office of ground water and drinking water. “We’ll be able to move much faster and issue stronger rules.”
While many experts and administrators embraced the news, some within the EPA and Congress remain skeptical.
“There is a history of this agency making big announcements, and then changing very little,” said an anonymous agency regulator. “The real test will be to see how many new chemicals have been regulated six months from now.”
The agency plans to develop the new rules over the next six months by consulting with outside experts and other industry members.