Oregon joins 12 states over Toxic Substances Control Act reform

Oregon Joins Select Group of States in Calling for Reform of Federal Toxic Substances Control Act
BY Oregon Department of Environmental Quality,

Federal legislation may be introduced soon; EPA administrator also supports reform

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Director Dick Pedersen today signed a statement of principles calling for reform and strengthening of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. The statement and accompanying letter will be distributed to the Obama Administration, members of Congress and others.

The act, passed by Congress in 1976, regulates the introduction of new or already existing chemicals in the United States.  Oregon and 12 other states, including Washington and California, believe the current law is inadequate in addressing the environmental and public health challenges of monitoring and regulating toxic chemicals. The current act covers an inventory of more than 80,000 chemicals manufactured and used to produce numerous items, including consumer products. However, research indicates that many of these chemicals cause long-term environmental or public health effects.

“A major challenge facing Oregon and every state is the large number of toxic chemicals in commerce that appear to be affecting human health and the environment,” Pedersen said. “DEQ is already working on an agency-wide strategy to identify and reduce the environmental release and effects of toxic chemicals. Oregon and other states see the need for swift action to bolster the current act, which needs updating after its enactment more than three decades ago.”

The statement of principles signed by Oregon today encourages Congress to update the act so that manufacturers provide more information about chemicals’ potential effects and so EPA has the necessary legal authority to protect public health and the environment. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has voiced support for proposed reform legislation so the act can be more protective of the environment.

Other states signing the statement of principles calling for reform include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington.

In October, DEQ presented to the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission its plans for a Toxics Reduction Strategy, which covers the agency’s air, water and land quality programs and details efforts to identify and reduce toxic pollutants in the state. DEQ expects to complete a draft of the strategy next March and will present it to the commission for final approval next spring.

DEQ’s Toxics Reduction Strategy will place under one umbrella several dozen DEQ efforts and projects to identify, remove or reduce toxic pollutants that may pose a threat to Oregonians and the environment. Some recent efforts are listed here:

·         DEQ is creating a “focus list” of 135 toxic chemicals gleaned from existing DEQ program lists of priority toxics. This list will help direct agency priorities for regulatory, monitoring and prevention programs and address toxics of concern for air, water and land.

Link: http://www.deq.state.or.us/toxics/index.htm

·         DEQ recently announced a list of 118 priority persistent pollutants found in surface waters, as directed by the Oregon Legislature. In the next year, the agency will work to identify the sources of these pollutants and ways they can be reduced. DEQ also is working with the state’s 52 largest municipal wastewater treatment facilities to develop plans to help reduce the levels of these pollutants being discharged into Oregon’s waters.

Link: http://www.deq.state.or.us/wq/SB737

·         DEQ has convened a 27-person Portland Air Toxics Solutions Advisory Committee that will recommend strategies for a 10-year plan to reduce toxic pollutants in Portland-area air. Link: http://www.deq.state.or.us/aq/toxics/pats.htm

·         DEQ has developed a draft report outlining first-year results of a program focusing on toxics monitoring in the Willamette River Basin. DEQ is identifying levels of various toxic at certain locations along the main stem of the Willamette and its major tributaries. DEQ is examining the presence of “legacy” pollutants such as DDT and PCBs, current pollutants such as mercury, flame retardants and dioxins and furans (manufacturing and combustion byproducts), and “chemicals of emerging concern” – chemicals that aren’t regulated but are increasingly found in our waters from personal care products. DEQ will expand this monitoring program to other watersheds throughout the state.

Link: http://www.deq.state.or.us/about/eqc/agendas/attachments/2009oct/E-Atta-ToxicsMonitoring.pdf

The Oregon Department of Human Services Office of Environmental Public Health is also working with DEQ and other states to reduce toxic chemical effects on human health in Oregon, and to promote reform of toxic chemical policies at the federal level. For more information, see the Environmental Public Health website at: http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/oeph/index.shtml.

More information on DEQ’s toxics reduction efforts is available through DEQ’s website at http://www.deq.state.or.us/toxics/index.htm.

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