Alexander Votes to Protect Tennesseans from Harmful Drinking Water

EPW Committee Approves Bill Requiring EPA to Update Drinking Water Standard to Protect Against Contaminate Found in Wells in Dickson County

Posted on July 31, 2008

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today that the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), of which he is a member, passed a measure to require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update its National Primary Drinking Water Standard to help protect the public against the negative health impacts of drinking water contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE), a chemical commonly used in degreasing agents, paint and spot removers and adhesives. “TCE was found in the well water of a family in Dickson County, having leached out of a nearby landfill, and is one of the most common soil and groundwater pollutants in the U.S.,” Alexander said. “The EPA should act quickly on the 2006 recommendation of the National Academies of Science and update its standard and begin working with communities to determine the risks of their drinking water.” According to the EPA, TCE is the most widespread water contaminant in the nation and can be found in soil and groundwater in every state. In 2006, the National Academies of Science recommended that EPA update it standard to take into account the latest scientific information on TCE which has been found to be more harmful than previously understood. Tennessee records show that high levels of TCE have been found in local wells in Dickson County, but to date EPA officials have stated that the water in the tested wells is safe for drinking. This legislation will help areas like Dickson County get more comprehensive information on TCE contamination and help better assess potential risks to the community. The TCE Reduction Act (S. 1911) requires the EPA to update the National Primary Drinking Water Regulation, a legally enforceable public water system standard, to limit TCE levels. The bill also would require the EPA to issue a health advisory for TCE and prepare an estimate of how much TCE vapor exposure would create an appreciable risk for harmful effects. The bill must now be approved by the full U.S. Senate.