Catania, Cheh Move to Require Testing for Unregulated Water Contaminants |
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From Brendan Williams-Kief: Today, Councilmember David A. Catania (At-Large) and Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) introduced the “Water Quality Assurance Amendment Act of 2012.” The bill would require quarterly testing for 30 unregulated water contaminants identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as possible threats to water quality. It would also establish a Water Quality Assurance Panel to assess testing results, evaluate the threat that these contaminants pose to the District’s water supply, and recommend to the Mayor an appropriate course of action.
“Our city’s residents deserve to know what they are drinking and whether these chemicals will be detrimental to their health,” said Councilmember Catania. “The Act will bring the District to the forefront of efforts to identify potentially dangerous substances and ensure all necessary steps are taken to protect the well-being of our residents. The reforms articulated in this Act will empower the District to deal with the real issue of emerging contaminants and will guide our decision making in how best to safeguard the District’s water from compounds that could potentially harm human health and the environment.”
Advancements in water quality testing in recent years have led to the discovery of a variety of chemicals in source water, drinking water, and wastewater including flame retardants, hormones, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, steroids, and pesticides. These chemical substances, known as emerging contaminants, are currently not regulated by the EPA and may in fact pose a risk to human health and the environment. Drinking water in the District originates from the Potomac River, which has been tested on several occasions for the presence of emerging contaminants.
“It’s important that we continue the progress the District has made as a national leader on health and environmental policies,” said Councilmember Mary Cheh, Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Works, and Transportation. “This bill is proactive. It focuses on water contaminants not yet regulated by the EPA, and calls for a panel of experts to develop plans that address these potentially harmful substances and to recommend maximum safe concentration levels. The Water Quality Assurance Amendment Act moves D.C. forward.”
The panel would also make recommendations on whether additional compounds should be monitored and identify treatment alternatives that reduce or eliminate these possible threats to water quality. A federal assessment in 2005 detected 87 different water contaminants in samples taken at the intake point for the District’s water supply, and the same assessment detected nine contaminants in finished drinking water. Despite being treated extensively by the Washington Aqueduct, the possibility still remains that contaminants are present in the District’s drinking water.
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