NRDC Sues EPA to Force it to Limit Toxic Chemical in Drinking Water

WASHINGTON (February 18, 2016) – The Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Environmental Protection Agency in federal court in New York today to force it to set limits on perchlorate.  

Perchlorate is a toxic chemical that has been detected in the drinking water systems that serve up to 16.6 million Americans.  Even at low levels, it can present serious health risks to children and pregnant women.

The following is a statement by Erik Olson, Director of the Health and Environment Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“The situation in Flint has highlighted the importance of acting swiftly to protect kids from toxic chemicals in our drinking water. Yet five years after EPA promised to protect millions of Americans—including children and pregnant women—who drink perchlorate-contaminated water, the agency still hasn’t even proposed a standard. We have an obligation to ensure that every American has access to safe drinking water. It is high time for EPA to get toxic perchlorate out of our kitchen taps.” 


Perchlorate has been widely used by the military and defense industries.  It is commonly used in rocket fuel, fireworks and explosives.  It is highly soluble in water, and can move quickly into ground and surface water when it contaminates soil.

Five years ago—on February 11, 2011—after reviewing 39,000 comments, the EPA acknowledged its duty to regulate perchlorate under the Safe Water Drinking Act, by concluding that:

(1) Perchlorate may have an adverse effect on human health;

(2) Perchlorate is known to, or substantially likely to, occur in public water systems with a frequency and at levels that cause a concern for public health; and,

(3) Regulating its presence in drinking water could meaningfully reduce health risks.

That finding by EPA triggered two deadlines under the Safe Drinking Water Act:  EPA had 2 years to propose safeguards, and another 18 months to finalize them. 

EPA has missed both deadlines.  Moreover, it has failed to act in response to ongoing efforts by NRDC, over more than a decade, to spur the agency to propose enforceable limits for perchlorate in drinking water.

For more background on this issue, see NRDC’s April, 2007 press release:

See the complaint here:


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