Congress to vote on bill setting a two-year clock for PFAS water limits

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A Michigan congresswoman said a federal bill requiring drinking water limits for the family of chemicals known as PFAS, which had been found in high national limits in parts of the counties of Bucks, and Montgomery, could move forward soon.

Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell said on Wednesday that she PFAS Action Law of 2021, setting a two-year deadline for setting limits for PFAS in drinking water, could be voted on in the House later this week.

Dingell said the bill is a “much needed bipartisan” push to regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, two of the most prevalent PFAS chemicals in drinking water across the country.

“Here’s the reality: we don’t have a minute left to waste,” Dingell said Wednesday.

PFAS has been used in a myriad of consumer and industrial products since the 1940s, including clothing and fire-fighting foams used by emergency services and the military.

A number of studies over the past few decades suggest links to a number of health issues associated with the ingestion of PFAS, including developmental issues in children, high blood pressure, ulcerative colitis, and certain cancers. .

A map of current levels of PFAS contamination of private and public drinking water wells prepared by researchers as part of the National Multi-Site Health Study of the long-term effects of the suspected carcinogen in drinking water.

The exact health effects of PFAS are currently uncertain, although the Federal Agency for the Registry of Toxic Substances and Diseases (ATSDR) is conducting a national multisite community health study that includes Bucks and Montgomery counties.

The fire-fighting foams used for decades at the former active military bases of Horsham, Warminster and Warrington are considered the main source of major contamination of drinking water in public and private wells in the region.

PFAS was detected in public drinking water wells when the Environmental Protection Agency conducted nationwide testing from 2013 to 2015 for a number of potentially hazardous substances.

In 2016, the EPA set a lifetime health advisory level for PFAS at 70 parts per trillion, but some wells in Bucks and eastern Montgomery counties have shown levels up to several hundred times greater than 70 ppt.

The tests led to a massive shutdown of public drinking water sources in the three cities and eventually hundreds of contaminated private wells were closed.

Elected officials at all levels of government pressured the Defense Ministry to bear the remediation costs currently borne by residents, but the military only agreed to pay the cleanup costs when the PFAS is greater than 70 ppt.

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Local sanitation costs have included installing new filtration systems on public wells, purchasing water from outside utilities, and users of private wells connecting to municipal water where private wells have been used. been closed.

The 70 ppt level is not legally enforceable, but area residents and people in communities reeling from PFAS contamination across the country want water without detectable levels of chemicals.

A federal or state legal limit for PFAS could force polluters to pay for remediation.

The Navy was successful in having two lawsuits dismissed from two area families of the United States District Court at early 2020 on blocked regulations.

The Giovanni family, from Warrington, and the Palmer family, from Ivyland, had requested court-ordered well monitoring, but the Navy argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because PFAS are not considered “substances. dangerous ”under state law.

A 2017 document review by this news organization show that Navy officials expressed concerns about fire-fighting foams contaminating the drinking water supply as early as 1995.

Middletown Republican Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1, of Middletown, said the PFAS Action Act was one of many bills he and other members of the Congressional PFAS task force are pushing during the current session.

Fitzpatrick and Dingell were two of many lawmakers to join advocates who spoke at the environmental task force’s first PFAS conference.

The conference was organized by the nonprofit research and advocacy group to highlight the slow pace of PFAS reforms.

Fitzpatrick added that federal regulation may be the best approach to dealing with PFAS, as the military has been a major and long-standing user of fire-fighting foams contaminating groundwater.

Fitzpatrick is one of nearly 50 co-sponsors of Dingell’s PFAS Limit Bill and co-sponsored the same bill when Dingell introduced it last session, where it was adopted by the House but was not voted on in the Senate.

The PFAS Action Act would also require that the two most common PFAS chemicals be considered “an unreasonable risk of harm to health or the environment” in manufacture for at least five years.

Dingell and Fitzpatrick are also sponsoring bills to ban the use of PFAS in cosmetics and Dingell said she will introduce another bill to prevent the use of PFAS in food packaging.

Dingell’s drinking water limit bill does not recommend a contaminant level, but members of the environmental task force said Wednesday that PFAS levels above 1 ppt were too much.

Pennsylvania recently completed sampling of drinking water wells across the state and reported in early June a PFAS greater than 70 ppt was “not widespread“in the republic.

The testing was one of the first steps in a 2018 executive order signed by Governor Tom Wolf to ultimately set a safe drinking water limit for PFAS.

Several states have adopted their own limits well below the EPA level since 2018, with New Jersey passing the first such regulation.

New Jersey limited the two most common compounds to 13 ppt for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and 14 ppt for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York State, and Vermont have set similar standards, although the limits vary from state to state.

The EWG believes that testing has confirmed some PFAS contamination in at least 2,337 locations in 49 states.



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