Toxic water contaminant could be slipping through regulatory cracks

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- A bombshell federal report raises new questions about the safety of your drinking water.

Turn on your faucet, and in many parts of the country, you could be exposed to a family of dangerous chemicals. Known collectively as PFAS and largely the byproduct of Teflon manufacturing and a foam used to fight jet fuel fires, they contaminate water sources from the East Coast to Alaska.

Prolonged exposure carries the risk of cancer and other health problems. And now, scientists with the Environmental Working Group said a new federal report released Wednesday suggests safe levels may be 10 times lower than current Environmental Protection Agency standards.

West Virginia lawmakers from both sides of the aisle recently demanded the study's release after media reports surfaced indicating the White House tried to bury it.

"I'm glad it's out in the open," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., "we can diagnose it, and hopefully make sure that we're preventing any kind of health incidences from too much of this chemical in the water."

Capito said she needs to dig deeper into the report before demanding action. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V. said if his team reaches the same conclusion as environmental watchdogs, and the Trump administration won't reconsider what's safe, Congress will.

"We've got to make sure that the human aspect of this, safety to all humans is the first and foremost thing in consideration," he said.

Congressman David McKinley, R-W.V., represents Northern West Virginia in Congress. He's reserving judgement on how Congress and the administration should respond until he and his staff have had time to digest the full 852 pages. He's interested not only in its conclusions on drinking water, but the level of contamination in food, and what kind of funding communities will need if big changes are made to how the chemicals are handled.

Just over a year ago, the company that took over the former DuPont facility in Parkersburg, West Virginia settled lawsuits with nearby affected residents for more than $650 million. A study surrounding that case figured significantly in the report written by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

The safety levels in this report are designed to guide health professionals and not to "support regulatory action." But, Congress or the White House could use it as a guide rewrite the requirements for testing drinking water, and cleaning up contamination when it's found.

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