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EPA nominee’s inaction on water contaminants is troubling

Acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks

Acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks after signing an order withdrawing federal protections for countless waterways and wetlands at EPA headquarters in Washington on Dec. 11. Credit: AP / Cliff Owen

The federal government continues to abdicate its responsibility to protect the nation’s health and environment.

Now it’s the Environmental Protection Agency’s apparent refusal to set drinking-water limits for PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), which have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, among other ailments. The Trump administration last year tried to block an EPA report that found the tap water of at least 16 million Americans contains unsafe levels of the chemicals, found in firefighting foam and Teflon-coated cookware.

PFOS and PFOA, which plague many locations on Long Island, can be easily filtered with carbon, but only when limits are set to guide such efforts. In the absence of federal action, a state panel recommended tough caps in December. Those standards must be approved and implemented. But that won’t help people in states without specific limits.

EPA acting head Andrew Wheeler, one of several agency officials who once lobbied for industry, is up for permanent confirmation next week by a Senate committee. His refusal to act on PFOA and PFOS is more grist for why senators should reject him. — The editorial board