WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., acted on legislation Wednesday that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to declare per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the Superfund law.
The legislation also would require that polluters undertake or pay for remediation.
Joining Capito on the legislation was Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; both are members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and the bill was first proposed in March.
The Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act of 2019, introduced Wednesday, is bipartisan legislation that would require the EPA to establish an enforceable standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act for PFAS in drinking water.
PFAS are a group of thousands of manufactured chemicals that can seep into drinking water supplies, such as C8, and have contaminated communities across the country, the legislation notes.
“In recent years, a growing body of science has shown the harmful effects certain PFAS pollutants can have on individuals with prolonged exposure to them, and it’s important that we do what we can to address that risk — especially in the drinking water our communities rely on,” Capito said. “By requiring EPA to set a national drinking water standard for PFAS, we can ensure West Virginians and others can have faith in their access to safe, clean drinking water and help protect the health and well-being of Americans across the country.”
C8 was once used to make Teflon at the Washington Works in Wood County. A science panel studying the health data from 70,000 residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley determined a possible link between C8 and five diseases in humans.
PFAS have been linked to cancers and other serious health and developmental effects. A new report shows potentially 19 million Americans are using public water systems exposed to PFAS contamination. However, no regulatory standards currently exist to protect from this health hazard, the release said.
“It is the EPA’s job to protect Americans from highly toxic chemicals like PFAS, but they have failed to do what is necessary to help ensure our families in New York and across the country are no longer exposed to dangerous levels of PFAS in their drinking water,” Gillibrand said. “This is a widespread crisis that is putting the health of millions of Americans at risk, and I’m proud to partner with Senator Capito on this bipartisan legislation to require the EPA to finally establish a clear national drinking water standard for PFAS and protect public health. Clean water is an essential right that all Americans deserve, and I urge my colleagues to join with me to quickly pass this legislation.”
In May 2018, during a national meeting, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the agency would propose designating PFOA and PFOS, two PFAS chemicals, as “hazardous substances” through one of the available statutory mechanisms.
In February, the EPA released its PFAS Action Plan that included another commitment by EPA to make that designation for PFOA and PFOS, but it did not identify the available statutory mechanism it would use or how long the designation process would take to complete, a release from Capito’s office said.
This bill would group all PFAS chemicals under one Maximum Contaminant Level, the release said.
The Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act of 2019 would require EPA to set a Maximum Contaminant Level and Primary National Drinking Water Regulation for PFAS within two years of the bill becoming law, according to the release.
Maximum Contaminant Levels are health-based standards the EPA sets for drinking water quality to determine the legal limit of a contaminant that is permitted in public water systems.