Science Wednesday: Witnessing History

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By Lyndee Collins

What is it about C-SPAN that lulls some people to sleep? It’s as if the sound of debate compares to crashing waves on a shore or trickling water. As I prepared to attend my very first congressional hearing, I couldn’t help but question if I had had enough coffee that morning.

As a new EPA intern, I attended the Oversight Hearing on Public Health and Drinking Water Issues so I could gain a better understanding of environmental policy. The hearing I attended was about the chemical perchlorate, a naturally occurring and man-made chemical deemed unhealthy by EPA scientific research. Traces of the chemical have been found in public water systems all around the country, sparking concern and the hearing I attended.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson at the hearing.The hearing started, cameras began to roll, and I-expecting a fight with my eyelids-was wide awake and engaged. I guess I can officially call myself a nerd now, but I actually enjoyed the hearing.

Listening to senators speak their opinions and witnessing all of the fuss around the room was much more engaging than I had predicted. Every question, opinion, and answer sparked a new topic of concern. Voices were raised, facial expressions varied, and conversations around the room echoed. I soon realized there was much more involved in a hearing than what could be captured through a lens.

I was particularly excited to see EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testify. She announced that EPA would indeed move forward with the development of a regulation to protect drinking water from perchlorate.

As she entered the room my eyes followed her until she took her chair. I couldn’t help but feel a little star struck when she entered. This was my first time to put a face to a name I had heard so frequently in the office. She took her seat and delivered a remarkable speech about her concerns for America’s drinking water, especially protecting it from contamination from harmful chemicals such as perchlorate.

“Our decisions are based on extensive review of the best available science and the health needs of the American people,” Jackson announced.

The hearing allowed me to gain true insight of how EPA science is used to protect human health.  EPA will continue to evaluate the science on perchlorate health effects and its occurrence in public water systems.

About the Author: Lyndee Collins is an intern from Indiana University currently working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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