Post By Bill Couzens Founder Less Cancer

EPA’s Failure To Publicize Drinking Water Data Prompts Agency, Congress To Rethink Policies

Huffington Post Investigative Fund | Danielle Ivory
First Posted: 09- 4-09 06:09 PM | Updated: 09- 4-09 08:33 PM

There is some evidence that Congress — and the Environmental Protection Agency — are rethinking their policies on a commonly used weed-killer after disclosures that the EPA failed to notify the public about high levels of the herbicide in drinking water.

As the Investigative Fund revealed last week, the herbicide atrazine has been found at levels above the federal safety limit in drinking water in at least four states. The chemical has been studied for its potential link to breast cancer, prostate cancer, and birth defects, and the EPA considers it to be a potential endocrine disruptor. It is banned in the European Union.

The Natural Resources Defense Council published a report on atrazine levels last week, and the New York Times weighed in with an article on growing questions about the herbicide’s health effects.

The Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee has asked the EPA for a comprehensive briefing next week on the agency’s failure to publicize results of tests that showed high levels of atrazine. The committee also is asking the EPA to develop a specific plan for reporting this data to the public in the future.

A senior committee staffer confirmed today that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and her staff plan to meet with “key players” at the EPA next week to discuss their data on atrazine.

“This is a top priority for us,” the staff member said. “We’re not goin to shy away from this. People have a right to know what is in their drinking water, particularly when the EPA’s data suggests that there could be a health concern.”

For five years, the EPA has been collecting weekly tests of drinking water in about 150 watersheds, primarily in the Midwest, where farmers spray the herbicide on cornfields and other crops. The agency, however, never acted on the results. Nor had it ever published the data — until tonight. EPA officials say they have now decided to make the test results available on their Web site.

The Investigative Fund obtaned the data this summer through a public records request and published it last week.