NEW YORK, NY — The US Environmental Protection Agency has released a new rule that will protect millions of people from mercury poisoning and other contaminants in drinking-water supplies, while giving companies a chance to appeal to the public.
The rule, finalized by the agency on Tuesday, applies to most U.S. drinking-ground waters from water in the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.
It will cover both commercial and residential uses.
The rule has drawn criticism from groups that say it will leave millions more Americans exposed to harmful levels of contaminants.
But the EPA said it will take the lead in drafting the rule, and that it will be implemented in the next few weeks.
“Our goal is to protect our nation’s drinking-wastewater supply, not to please the pharmaceutical industry,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, a former Republican senator from Massachusetts.
“And we are going to use every tool available to do that.”
In a statement, the EPA noted that it expects the rule to take up to three years to come into effect.
In the meantime, the agency is also issuing new guidance that will provide protections for some of the most hazardous substances in drinking waters, including mercury.
Mercury and mercury-containing chemicals are common in many household products, such as household bleach, cleaning supplies and household cleaners.
The chemicals are also found in air fresheners and in some cosmetics.
The new rule was announced as the U.K. government announced plans to require people in the country to get an extra two weeks of medical care in the event of a coronavirus case, or if they have chronic health problems.
It is a response to coronaviruses that have killed more than 2,000 people and sickened more than 1 million, the World Health Organization said in June.
It was the first time the EPA issued a global rule to protect drinking water.
It also follows other actions taken by the EPA in recent months that have allowed more companies to sue to protect their businesses from contamination.
The rule also was the second time the agency issued a public health advisory after the Zika virus.
Critics of the EPA rule have said that it would let the industry off the hook for the chemicals and put the public at risk.
But a coalition of environmental groups said that the rule would provide no clear protection against the potentially devastating effects of mercury, which can cause serious health problems, including a higher rate of neurological disorders.
The group, the Environmental Working Group, urged the EPA to focus on more effective measures to reduce mercury in the drinking-waters, including testing for the toxin and using the EPA’s own estimates to make changes to the rules.