Environment & Science

EPA's Jackson announces new strategy on environmental chemicals

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Federal environmental officials say they're working on new strategies to clean up drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced it has four cancer-causing chemicals in its sights. Two turn up in groundwater contaminated by textile and other manufacturing. The others are associated with a water treatment process.

The real news in the announcement from EPA chief Lisa Jackson is the way the agency's going to go after the chemicals. Current environmental chemical policy is slow; the federal government analyzes each compound separately, and tens of thousands of chemicals may be of concern.

EPA's new idea is to group chemicals that are similar together, regulate through existing laws for regulation rather than new ones, and share the burden of making and enforcing rules with state and local agencies. Even though the new strategy will be faster, it won't be speedy – new rules on the four chemicals Jackson mentioned will take more than a year. Then EPA will investigate how well this new system works.