How to Respond to a Stringent Measure on CrVI: A Case for Affected Small Businesses

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While the nation is preoccupied by the development in the month long Occupy Wall Street Protest, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is busy preparing for its final agency review on the toxicity of oral exposures to hexavalent chromium (CrVI). EPA is set to work on the final assessment from October to December of this year.

CrVI is utilized in almost all industries: from the production of stainless steel to textile dyes, from wood preservation to leather tanning and from anti-corrosion processes to conversion coatings. It can be found in soil and groundwater either naturally or as a contaminant from abandoned industrial sites. EPA is inclined to go for tougher regulation on CrVI in drinking water. As published in the March 2011 copy of Civil Engineering, EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson said that it is likely that the agency will tighten the drinking water standards on the said compounds. Jackson’s statement raised concerns among small drinking water providers.

In a letter dated October 5th, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy called on for EPA’s postponement of the final CrVI risk evaluation in the absence of current conclusive study on the matter. SBA believed that EPA should uphold well-informed regulatory decisions by incorporating independent scientific reviews. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and ToxStrategies, a scientific consulting firm, are conducting separate and independent studies on the matter. Results of the study are scheduled for release by the end of 2011.

While the associated regulatory cost of possible stringent measure for the compounds concerns small drinking water providers and other small businesses, they share EPA’s onus to protect the public’s interest through safe water provision. In the name of better and safer services for the public, what are the healthy steps affected small businesses could take in an event EPA implement a stringent standard on the beneficial yet potentially hazardous compounds?

1.) Weigh in the Results of the CrVI Risk Evaluation. The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) protects small businesses and other small entities in the U.S. It requires federal agencies to review the impact of regulatory measures on small businesses and adopt a less burdensome alternative if necessary. If indeed, as posit by SBA, EPA is basing its final evaluation of CrVI toxicity on insufficient scientific data, the final results can be called in question. Since the early 1990s, small and big entities employed necessary protocols to minimize negative effects of CrVI in the workplace and in the environment. Despite the costs of these efforts, affected small businesses pursued the regulatory and policy initiatives put in place. However, stringent controls and the costs of implementing them based on flawed science cannot be justified.

2.) Basic Compliance. Small businesses and other affected entities should consistently comply with the current regulations lay down by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) related to CrVI. Compliance rate on current regulations may indirectly affect the placement of even more controls on the use of CrVI both in oral exposures and air emissions. Final EPA review on inhalation toxicity of CrVI is set on last quarter of 2012.

3.) Find Alternative Solution. The Water Research Foundation (WRF) is committed in finding ways to detect and treat CrVI through research. The Foundation has funded two new research projects this year for the aforementioned advocacy. CrVI has its beneficial uses, but they could not compensate for the compounds’ potential human health risk. Affected small businesses should find alternative compounds if conclusive evidence established CrVI’s toxicity.

Bottom line: Organizations like SBA, WRF and EPA, regardless of whose interest they are advancing, are all committed in protecting the public from needless harm, be it economic or health. When concerns of all parties involved are addressed, the ultimate winners are the consumers who themselves are workers.

 

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