Tuesday, April 15, 2008
WASHINGTON - A White House task force that was supposed to devise a federal plan to research the issue of pharmaceuticals in drinking water has missed its deadline and failed to produce mandated reports and recommendations for coordination among numerous federal agencies, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
More than 70 pages of the task force's documents, including e-mails and weekly reports, were released under the Freedom of Information Act as a Senate subcommittee prepares to convene a hearing Tuesday prompted by an AP investigation about trace concentrations of drugs in America's drinking water.
The working group on pharmaceuticals in the environment was formed two years ago through the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The panel has met several times for briefings and is aware of public concern about pharmaceuticals in water supplies, according to the documents.
In a weekly report dated March 24, 2006, then-task force coordinator Kevin Geiss, wrote: "There has been considerable congressional interest in this topic."
But it is impossible to track any possible progress by the group because the White House has classified task force agendas and minutes as internal documents, and therefore cannot be released, said spokeswoman Kristin Scuderi. The group's annual report is in draft form and therefore also cannot be released at this time, she added.
While providing some documents to the AP, Rachael Leonard, a White House deputy general counsel, said "10 inches worth of documents" were not being released.
The group's deadline to produce a national research strategy came and went in December. Scuderi said the task force needs extra time to "serve as an internal federal vehicle to further enhance interagency collaboration."Full article here.