In testimony earlier this month before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) called “sound, peer-reviewed science” to drive regulatory decisions on perchlorate and other drinking water contaminants. The hearing, entitled “Oversight Hearing on Public Health and Drinking Water Issues,” focused on two contaminants: perchlorate and chromium-6.

During the hearing, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the agency would move forward with perchlorate regulation, reversing a 2008 preliminary determination. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the EPA’s own Inspector General had previously concluded that a national regulation for perchlorate in drinking water would not present a meaningful opportunity to reduce risk, as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). AWWA says its own assessment was consistent with those findings.

“EPA’s decision to move forward on perchlorate regulation is perplexing,” said AWWA Deputy Executive Director Tom Curtis, following the hearing. “Water providers share the Agency’s interest in protecting public health through the provision of safe water. However, the weight of scientific evidence suggests national regulation of perchlorate in drinking water does not accomplish this goal.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chaired the hearing, recently introduced two pieces of legislation that would compel the EPA to issue standards for perchlorate and chromium-6. In delivering AWWA’s testimony, Charles Murray, general manager of Virginia-based Fairfax Water, called for “scientific processes and faithfulness to the Safe Drinking Water Act.”

“The bottom line is that Congress should not legislate individual drinking water standards,” Murray testified. “The SDWA was amended in 1996 to provide a scientifically sound and transparent method for selecting the appropriate substances for regulation and for selecting the appropriate maximum contaminant level for contaminants. We should allow the best available science, not the political process, to be the ultimate driver in regulatory decisions.”