After promulgating perchlorate standards in July 2006, MassDEP expanded the mission of its multi-program Perchlorate Workgroup to include a broader range of chemicals. Known thereafter as the Emerging Contaminant Workgroup, it was charged with identifying and assessing public health and environmental problems associated with currently unregulated or under-regulated contaminants, and recommending agency strategies for addressing them.
The Workgroup centralizes MassDEP's focus on emerging contaminants, fosters information exchange, and brings together a broad range of cross-program expertise. The Workgroup defined emerging contaminants as hazardous materials or mixtures (including naturally occurring or manmade chemical, microbial or radiological substances) that are characterized by having:
- A perceived or real threat to human health, public safety or the environment;
- No published health standards or guidelines;
- Insufficient or limited available toxicological information or toxicity information that is evolving or being re-evaluated; or
- Significant new source, pathway, or detection limit information.
In 2007, the Workgroup developed a preliminary list of emerging contaminants based on MassDEP databases and professional experience, and established a framework to screen and prioritize these contaminants. Additional work involved developing recommended strategies for how the agency would address contaminants nominated for action.
The preliminary list was comprised of about 80 emerging contaminants. Approximately 30 of these have been placed on a Watch List for further information gathering, and nine have been identified priorities for further evaluation and agency actions.
MassDEP also received some external input from program advisory committees and other state agencies on its emerging contaminants work effort. The Emerging Contaminants web pages describe the agency's past and current thinking about a process to identify and address priority emerging contaminants.