Press Release

GAO Perchlorate Report Demands Action, NRDC Says

Statement by Erik Olson, NRDC Senior Health Attorney

Rob Perks, 202-289-2420

WASHINGTON (June 21, 2005) -- The General Accountability Office (GAO) today is expected to release the results of its 18-month study on perchlorate. The chemical, a primary component of rocket fuel, harms the thyroid and is especially dangerous for infants. Perchlorate has contaminated drinking water supplies for millions of Americans. GAO found, among other things, that perchlorate contamination is widespread and its exposure threatens human health.

The following is a statement by Erik Olson, senior attorney in the health program at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):

"The GAO report shows how the Pentagon and its defense contractors are largely responsible for the widespread perchlorate pollution of our drinking water.

"The findings illustrate why it's a bad idea for Congress to grant the Pentagon's wish to exempt the Defense Department from federal laws that safeguard our health and environment.

"As the nation's biggest polluter, the Defense Department shouldn't get off the hook when it comes to cleaning up its toxic mess.

"The report also highlights how the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to protect people from perchlorate pollution in our drinking water.

"The EPA has known for at least 20 years that perchlorate contaminates drinking water supplies. Despite this, and despite the fact that there are hundreds of sites across the country polluted with this rocket fuel, the agency has yet to establish a safe drinking water standard for perchlorate.

"It is irresponsible for EPA to continue to deny and delay an enforceable federal standard for perchlorate. Waiting until well after the year 2010 for an enforceable standard to take effect, which is what EPA seems content to do, represents a clear and present danger to millions of Americans.

"Because EPA has fallen down on the job, we're encouraging states and local governments to act now to set safe levels for perchlorate in drinking water."

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