The EPA has issued new rules in response to US environmental groups’ call for tighter restrictions. The new policy will set a schedule for reform of the existing regulations with deadlines set for 2012 and 2014.

The non-profit groups, Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Earthjustice, lobbied the EPA, claiming that new clean water rules were decades overdue.

This, they said, meant the American public was continuing to be exposed to heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, chromium and mercury in power plant wastewater discharges.

EIP attorney Jennifer Peterson said: “These rules were supposed to have been written nearly 30 years ago–they are not new requirements.

“Wastewater treatment is affordable, and our waterways are not a dumping ground for toxic waste from coal-fired power plants.

“We appreciate EPA’s commitment to get these long overdue rules back on track.”

While the Clean Water Act requires state agencies to set stringent limits on the discharge of pollutants from power plants on a case-by-case basis, the EIP say this requirement has been largely ignored at state level.

Earthjustice attorney Abigail Dillen, said: “Until EPA finalizes new standards, it’s crucial that state agencies do their part to keep toxics out of our water.

“We hope and trust that EPA will be cracking down on permits that allow power plants to dump mercury, arsenic, selenium into drinking water and fishing streams.”

Alison Brown

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