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Reader: The EPA is choosing PR over the people 

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Recently released EPA emails document their decision to suppress the truth about PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) exposure. PFAS are the chemicals in the drinking water supply of over 60,000 El Paso County residents. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which is tasked with assessing health effects associated with chemicals, published toxicology data supporting a "safe" exposure level of as low as 12 parts per trillion, arguing the current EPA advisory 70ppt was not low enough. Fearing a "public relations nightmare," EPA and White House staff decided to keep the truth from the public by withholding the document.

Locally, politicians are patting Air Force brass on the back for dishing out $34 million this year for water filtration systems to deliver drinking water with PFAS levels below 70ppt. According to ATSDR scientists, that's not low enough.

Some states have acted more aggressively to protect residents from PFAS toxins by adopting lower and enforceable maximum contaminant levels (MCLs). One of the biggest polluters, the U.S. Department of Defense, says they may not comply with state standards, informing Michigan officials that the Pentagon "may be considering changing its policy on compliance with individual state drinking and surface water standards for some contaminants," including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

Colorado recently adopted a site-specific groundwater standard for two PFAS chemicals of 70 ppt. I argued before the Water Quality Control Commission for a lower threshold. Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment staff responded that the "best available science" did not support a lower standard. Now we know that the science supporting a more protective standard did exist, but was being suppressed by the very officials appointed to protect us.

Over 6 million people across the country are drinking PFAS-contaminated water. Unfortunately, the EPA, rather than protecting people from poisonous chemicals in drinking water, is choosing to protect the DoD and industry from a "PR nightmare."

— Susan Gordon, Cañon City


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