Type: Law Bulletins
Date: 03/09/2011

EPA's First "Group" Drinking Water Regulations

On February 2, 2011, U.S. EPA announced that it would move forward with efforts to regulate, as a single group, up to 16 carcinogenic volatile organic compounds in drinking water.  The VOCs would be the first group of drinking water contaminants to be addressed as a single group under the Agency’s new “Drinking Water Strategy” announced in March of 2010.  Under this new regulatory strategy, EPA is attempting to address drinking water contaminants in groups, rather than the traditional method of individual contaminant regulation, in an effort to speed up the regulatory process, while encouraging development of more cost-effective and efficient treatment technologies that can address multiple contaminants at the same time.

After announcing the new regulatory strategy on March 22, 2010, EPA held a series of public meetings and conferences with various stakeholders to obtain feedback on the process and to identify potential contaminant groups and treatment technologies.  This process included a public stakeholder meeting on September 21, 2010, during which EPA shared a draft discussion paper that explained the new process and identified the various contaminant groups under consideration for potential regulatory action.  That September 17, 2010, draft discussion paper identified the following contaminant groups as “Groups for Potential Regulatory Development in the Near Term”:

  • Carcinogenic VOCs (16)
  • Nitrosamines (6)
  • Chlorinated DBPs (several)

In addition, the following contaminant groups were identified as “Groups for Future Consideration”:

  • PFOA/PFOS/PFCs (7)
  • Organophosphates (31)
  • Carbamates (11)

As indicated in the draft discussion paper from September 2010, EPA’s initial VOCs group includes 16 different chemicals:

  • benzene
  • carbon tetrachloride
  • 1,2-dichloroethane
  • 1,2-dichloropropane
  • dichloromethane
  • tetrachloroethylene
  • trichloroethylene
  • vinyl chloride
  • aniline
  • benzyl chloride
  • 1,3-butadiene
  • 1,1-dichloroethane
  • nitrobenzene
  • oxirane methyl
  • 1,2,3-trichloropropane
  • urethane

The first eight VOCs in this list are already regulated and the last eight are not yet regulated.  EPA included them all in the same group on the basis that they are all “known or suspected to cause cancer.”   At present, EPA predicts that a proposed rule for this first VOCs group may take another 2 to 2.5 years to develop.  As for the other groups, EPA has confirmed that it will focus next on whether to pursue group regulation of nitrosamine disinfection byproducts.
For more information on EPA’s regulation of drinking water contaminants by group, please contact Rob Bilott or any member of Taft’s environmental practice group.

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