The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reportedly considering addressing toxins in drinking water by regulating them in groups, rather than continuing to address them contaminant-by-contaminant, and has identified nitrosamines as one of the first groups that could be subject to the new paradigm. Other groups under consideration are pesticides, volatile organic compounds and chlorinated disinfection byproducts.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson apparently proposed taking this approach earlier in the year, and the agency conducted a number of workshops over the summer to gauge stakeholder support. InsideEPA.com obtained a draft discussion paper from a September 2010 meeting; it details a number of ways toxins can be grouped, including (i) similar effects on human health and the environment, (ii) similar water treatment options, and (iii) occurrence similarities, i.e., likely to occur with other chemicals in the group.

Drinking water industry officials have apparently expressed concerns with EPA’s proposal to address nitrosamines in the near future, noting that treating water for these substances is “difficult and challenging and expensive” and unlikely to reduce total exposures in any significant way given that “there is a lot more [of the compound] in beer and hot dogs” than in drinking water. Nitrosamines are used in rubber, pesticide and cosmetic manufacturing; people are also exposed to them in many protein-rich foods. EPA has reportedly claimed that the benefits of a grouping approach include better accounting for the risks of multiple contaminants, expediting regulation of emerging contaminants and giving water utilities the opportunity to make better long-term investment plans. See InsideEPA.com, October 12, 2010.