EPA silent on toxic water issue

WASHINGTON – After weeks of repeated attempts, workers at the Environmental Protection Agency say there’s not a single federal employee at the EPA who is qualified and available to speak on camera about the quality of Toledo’s water.

“Unfortunately, an on-camera interview won’t be possible at this time,” an EPA spokesperson said in an e-mail.

Radio silence, from the government officials paid by American tax dollars, responsible for making up the safety standards of drinking water.

“It would be easier to deal with this issue if we had a federal standard,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). “Right now, we rely on a World Health Organization standard that is viewed by most scientists to be a seat of the pants estimate, you know?”

Portman said he’s asked the EPA to set up a national standard for the amount of microcystin allowed in drinking water. Microsystin is the toxin that contaminated Toledo’s water last month, leaving at least 400,000 people without safe drinking water for days.

“That has been something that has been ongoing literally for years now, and the EPA has not yet come out with a rule,” Portman said. “What they need to do is come out with a standard that a city or state can use that is based on good science.”

Portman and fellow Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D) are working on legislation that would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create a central database to help track toxins in drinking water. They are also working on another bill that would make sure the EPA publishes a national standard for the amount of microcystin that’s safe for consumers to drink.

“We’ve fallen back. We’ve got to invest in water treatment better, we’ve got to work with farmers to give incentives for less run offs, we’ve all got to pitch in whether it’s a golf course or home front lawns that use fertilizer,” Brown said.

Republican Congressman Bob Latta (OH) is working on similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“One of the things that you want to make sure out there, is safe drinking water. When you turn that tap on every day, that you’re safe. So we want to make sure that we have that information,” Latta said.

While EPA officials won’t talk on camera, their website shows the agency plans to come up with a federal law that ensures the quality of drinking water by 2016.

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