Image: Water treatment plant at Marine base
Gerry Broome  /  AP
The four chemicals being reviewed include trichloroethylene, a plume of which was found under the Camp Lejeune, N.C. The Marine base has since set up this treatment center. The chemical was used for degreasing metals and the plume came from a waste disposal site on base. Contamination of drinking wells years ago at the base has since led to health concerns. staff and news service reports
updated 3/22/2010 12:02:55 PM ET 2010-03-22T16:02:55

The Environmental Protection Agency is tightening drinking water standards to impose stricter limits on four contaminants that can cause cancer.

In a speech Monday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the agency is developing stricter regulations for four compounds: tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, acrylamide and epichlorohydrin. All four can cause cancer.

Tetrachloroethyleneylene and trichloroethylene are used in industrial and textile processing and can seep into drinking water from contaminated groundwater or surface water.

Acrylamide and epichlorohydrin are impurities that can be introduced into drinking water during the water treatment process.

Camp Lejeune, N.C., is the most infamous case of trichloroethylene, or TCE, showing up in tap water.

Water at the Marine base's family housing units was contaminated by TCE and other chemicals from the 1950s through the 1980s. Health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to the toxins before the wells that supplied the tainted water were closed two decades ago.

Slideshow: Water rights Hundreds of former residents of the base have filed administrative claims, seeking nearly $4 billion, for exposure to the industrial solvents.

Jackson said the EPA will issue new rules on the four chemical compounds within the next year, and added that cleaner water also requires new technologies.

"To confront emerging health threats, strained budgets and increased needs — today's and tomorrow's drinking water challenges — we must use the law more effectively and promote new technologies," Jackson told a conference of water utility officials on World Water Day.

"That means fostering innovation that can increase cost-effective protection," she added. "It means finding win-win-win solutions for our health our environment and our economy. And it means broad collaboration. To make our drinking water systems work harder, we have to work smarter."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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