Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday an action plan meant to regulate harmful chemicals found in drinking water systems across the United States.
Andrew Wheeler, the EPA's acting administrator, made the announcement during an event in Philadelphia. The agency said it developed its action plan based on data, testimony and feedback it received from a 2018 leadership summit and follow-up visits to community events from New Hampshire to Washington state.
The plan was created to help establish a maximum contaminant level for Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, or PFAS, which are man-made substances found in various household items, including food packaging, cleaners, water-repellent fabrics, Teflon-coated cookware, and cleaning supplies, USA Today reported.
The chemicals have been suspected to cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects. Other research has shown that the substance can also contribute to low infant birth weights, thyroid problems and some cancers.
"The PFAS Action Plan is the most comprehensive cross-agency plan to address an emerging chemical of concern ever undertaken by EPA," Wheeler said in a statement. "For the first time in agency history, we utilized all of our program offices to construct an all-encompassing plan to help states and local communities address PFAS and protect our nation's drinking water.
"We are moving forward with several important actions, including the maximum contaminant level process, that will help affected communities better monitor, detect, and address PFAS," he added.
The action plan also includes clean-up efforts of the chemical once containment levels are established, enforcement, monitoring, continued research and risk communication.
"Together, these efforts will help EPA and its partners identify and better understand PFAS contaminants generally, clean up current PFAS contamination, prevent future contamination, and effectively communicate risk with the public," an EPA statement said.
Ansje Miller, of the Center for Environmental Health, which advocates against toxic chemicals, said EPA action will not come soon enough.
"The EPA's long-awaited involvement on this issue is welcomed, but any actual relief from this 'action plan' to all the sick American residents, marginalized communities, overburdened state agencies, and underfunded cities and states will likely be years away," Miller told CNN.
Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food and Water Watch, was more critical, calling the proposal a "non-action plan" that doesn't help "people affected by this industrial waste in their drinking water supplies."