EPA weakens guidelines for clean-up of toxic groundwater pollution by military contaminating millions of Americans’ drinking water

"We urgently need action to protect clean water not more deregulation."

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The EPA announced its updated guidelines for the clean-up of toxic groundwater pollution, which could have a possible affect on millions of Americans’ drinking water. After the Department of Defense lobbied for “weakened guidelines,” the Trump administration responded on Thursday with changes in guidelines that apply to per-and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances.

These substances, which are heavily used by the Pentagon to fight fires on military bases, will no longer be responsible for the prompt removal of the “potential contamination from hundreds of sites across the country, citing costs,” Common Dreams reported. Military bases can now take years to clean up the hazardous substances.

“Despite the agency’s ongoing spin to the contrary, it seems hell-bent on giving industrial and military polluters a pass despite the clear and present danger these chemicals represent for our health,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, said.

Erased from the Trump administration’s new draft was a rule that required the immediate clean-up of a contaminated area where the PFAS level of 400 parts per trillion in groundwater, which would require excavating or fencing off the polluted area, Common Dreams reported. The new guidelines state long-term clean-up is needed if contaminated area is at least 70 parts per trillion of PFAS. But both scientists and federal regulators agree that this threshold is “far too high to protect public health,” Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported.

“It is a Band-Aid, at best, that does essentially nothing to help the hundreds – perhaps thousands – of communities, in almost every state, with contaminated tap water,” David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG, said. “Americans need real and swift action to address this crisis, not more toothless proposals from the Trump administration.”

While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said PFAS contamination is “one of the most seminal public health challenges” facing Americans today, the Pentagon admitted to inadvertently releasing these chemicals at 401 military bases throughout the country and contaminating drinking water as a result. PFAS are known to causes kidney cancer, testicular cancer and thyroid disease.

“We urgently need action to protect clean water not more deregulation,” Hauter said.

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