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DATE: April 25, 2019

SNIP: After pressure from the Defense Department, the Environmental Protection Agency significantly weakened a proposed standard for cleaning up groundwater pollution caused by toxic chemicals that contaminate drinking water consumed by millions of Americans and that have been commonly used at military bases.

Standards released by the agency on Thursday eliminated entirely a section that would have addressed how it would respond to what it has described as “immediate threats posed by hazardous waste sites.” Those short-term responses, known as removal actions, can include excavating contaminated soil or building a security fence around a toxic area.

Exposure to the class of toxic chemicals, called per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, has been linked in recent years to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and ulcerative colitis, among other diseases. Animal studies also show delays in development.

For decades, the substances, more commonly known as PFAS, have been placed in all kinds of everyday products — nonstick pans, clothing, furniture. They can also be found in firefighting foams used on military bases, on airfields and by municipal firefighters.

In the proposal, the E.P.A. had suggested a water contamination level that could incite immediate removal action. That level was 400 parts per trillion of two types of PFAS, a copy of the original proposal shows. That suggestion is now gone.

The recommendations issued Thursday focus instead on longer-term remedial actions — which can take years — to address instances in which the government has confirmed that drinking water supplies have been contaminated.

But the agency does not explicitly ask polluters to take action in areas around the United States where polluted water is not being used as drinking water. [Because animals just don’t matter at all I guess.]