A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report claims that EPA has neither identified contaminants that pose the greatest risk to human health nor used its full authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to obtain data necessary for making regulatory determinations. Since 1996, when the SDWA amendments were enacted, EPA has selected 111 contaminants of potential concern, according to the report, but has only recommended perchlorate for regulation.

Prepared at the request of Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, the report claims that EPA failed to define the characteristics of contaminants of greatest public concern or even develop a process for prioritizing contaminants on its contaminant list. The report also contends that EPA failed to specifically consider children’s health in developing regulatory determinations and did not guide its staff on how to analyze the impact of drinking-water contaminants on children and other sensitive populations.