A Senate committee this week will take up one of the most far-reaching plans to address nonstick chemical contamination that Congress has yet to consider, aides and lobbyists told Bloomberg Environment.
The measure would give the EPA two years to set nationwide drinking water standards for a class of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. However, it would also give water utilities a five-year grace period to come into compliance with these standards, according to a copy of the measure obtained by Bloomberg Environment.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to meet June 19 to cast a vote on this proposal, which is an amendment to a broader fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill (S. 1790) that was already approved out of a separate committee.
The PFAS amendment is co-sponsored by the Environment Committee’s chairman, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and its top Democrat, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).
Firefighting Foam, Food Packaging
PFAS chemicals are used in nonstick coatings, firefighting foams, and some food packaging.
Some types of PFAS chemicals have caused contamination problems in drinking water supplies in dozens of cities and towns across the country. They’re an especially acute problem on and near military bases, where airfields have been doused in firefighting foam during fires and drills, with the chemicals then seeping underground and into aquifers.
The Environmental Protection Agency has said it won’t decide until late this year whether it will set nationwide standards for PFAS, let alone what those standards would be. This amendment would greatly accelerate that process by requiring the EPA to set standards and giving it a hard deadline to do so.
In addition to forcing the EPA to set standards, the legislation would also require companies to report to the EPA when they release PFAS into the environment and would require the U.S. Geological Survey to do nationwide water samples to determine where PFAS contamination exists.