WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on January 10 to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are a group of human-made chemicals that have …
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on January 10 to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are a group of human-made chemicals that have contaminated municipal water supplies in Rep. Antonio Delgado’s district and many other places in the country.
Delgado authored an amendment to the legislation (H.R. 535) which would require industrial facilities to disclose information about specific PFAS before releasing it into sewer systems.
“Right now, companies can tap into our public wastewater infrastructure and introduce PFAS into our sewage systems—regardless of the local treatment plant’s ability to effectively treat the contamination. Most municipal water treatment plants are not equipped to effectively treat for PFAS contamination, which makes indirect discharges extremely hazardous, particularly when not disclosed,” Delgado said on the house floor. The House bill passed on a vote of 247 to 159 with a handful of Republicans joining the Democratic majority.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) two of the most dangerous PFAS, known as PFOA and PFOS, “can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney and immunological effects in laboratory animals. Both chemicals have caused tumors in animal studies. The most consistent findings from human epidemiology studies are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with more limited findings related to infant birth weights; effects on the immune system; cancer (for PFOA); and thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS).”
In December 2018, the Northeastern University Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute reported, “Over six million Americans in 22 states receive drinking water from sources that exceeded the EPA’s 2016 guideline for PFOS and PFOA, and drinking water for an additional 100 million Americans has not yet been tested.”
The measure passed by the House would compel the EPA to declare PFOA and PFOS to be hazardous substances. The legislation could also compel entities that have manufactured and used PFAS to help pay for cleaning up contaminated sites. Under the law, EPA would also be required to set a maximum amount of PFOA and PFOS to be allowed in water supplies.
The Office of Management and Budget issued a memo on January 7 saying that the White House opposes the legislation. “The bill would create considerable litigation risk, set problematic and unreasonable rulemaking timelines and precedents, and impose substantial, unwarranted costs on federal, state and local agencies and other key stakeholders in both the public and private sectors,” the memo reads.
The memo states that the EPA is working on the PFAS issue following the “statutorily mandated regulatory processes to evaluate and determine the appropriate actions needed to protect the health of the American people, including actions to protect the safety of our drinking water…
“The legislation would require the administration to bypass well-established processes, procedures and legal requirements of the nation’s most fundamental environmental laws, including the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act; the Safe Drinking Water Act; the Toxic Substances Control Act; the Clean Air Act; and the Solid Waste Disposal Act.”
It concludes, “If H.R. 535 were presented to the president, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.” It’s not clear if the Senate will take up the measure.