EPA: Water Pollution Issues Ignored at Lake George

Putting on the blinders at the Environmental Protection Agency when it comes to water pollution issues at Lake George.

| July/August 1987

Putting on the blinders at the EPA over water pollution issues. 

EPA: Water Pollution Issues Ignored at Lake George

A drunk is crawling along the sidewalk beneath a street lamp.
"What's the trouble?" asks a passer-by.
"Losht my car keys," answers the drunk.
"You dropped them here?"
"No. I dropped them over behind the bushes."
"Then why are you looking here?"
"It's dark over there."

This hoary tale sprang to mind the other day when I learned that an herbicide that may be applied to Lake George in upstate New York to control a weed called Eurasian water milfoil breaks down eventually into a dozen other chemicals, one of which can cause miscarriages, birth defects, stillbirths and liver damage and can interfere with the male reproductive system.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should have discovered this fact and informed the Lake George authorities long ago. (Lake George provides drinking water for several thousand people in the summertime.) But, like our imbiber, it didn't look in the right place—that is, if it looked at all.

Indeed, when informed by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund of this looming problem, a spokesman for the EPA wasn't surprised. The chances of EPA discovering such a thing were between "slim and none," according to the official. EPA is too short-handed to investigate breakdown products of all the chemicals it approves, he explained.

This is a rather startling admission—one that raises fundamental questions about just exactly what the Environmental Protection Agency protects. It also suggests that the highly touted system EPA recently instituted to test new chemicals may be far from all it's cracked up to be.

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