WASHINGTON – Today Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) introduced bipartisan legislation to sample water for contamination with the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS.
The PFAS Detection Act of 2019 would authorize the U.S. Geological Survey to test surface and groundwater for PFAS pollution, with a special focus on water near sites already known or suspected to be contaminated.
“Communities have a right to know the scope of this contamination crisis,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s vice president for government affairs. “EWG applauds Sens. Stabenow and Rounds and Reps. Kildee and Bergman for making PFAS pollution a priority.”
EPA tests have detected PFAS pollution of public water supplies for 16 million Americans in 33 states. But based on unreleased EPA test results, EWG estimates that the water supplies for as many as 110 million Americans may be contaminated.
EWG has called on Congress and federal regulators to:
- Find out where PFAS chemicals are coming from. Adding PFAS chemicals to the Toxic Release Inventory would disclose who is releasing them into our water, soil and air. Polluters should also be required to warn neighboring communities of their potential exposure.
- Find out where PFAS chemicals already are. Requiring utilities and regulators to monitor for PFAS in drinking water, air and food, and improving the tools to measure contamination, would tell us the extent of the PFAS contamination crisis. Agencies like EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should also conduct body burden testing, medical monitoring and health impact studies of people affected by PFAS contamination, especially military families.
- Stop approving new PFAS chemicals. An estimated 5,000 PFAS chemicals are in use, so there’s no reason for the EPA or the Food and Drug Administration to let any more on the market. The EPA should also finalize a rule that would require companies to get the agency’s approval before using some kinds of PFAS chemicals.
- Stop adding more PFAS chemicals to the environment. PFAS should be banned from consumer products, including cookware, food packaging, cosmetics, carpeting and clothing. They should also be banned from firefighting foam, especially foam used at civilian airports and in training exercises. The EPA should also regulate the discharge of toxic PFAS chemicals into our air and water.
- Add PFAS to the Superfund cleanup law. Classifying PFAS as a hazardous substance under the Superfund law will help communities begin to clean up contaminated sites. EPA should also make sure PFAS chemicals are properly disposed of. House and Senate legislators have introduced the PFAS Action Act of 2019 to do so.
- Set an enforceable limit for PFAS in tap water. More than 1,500 drinking water systems serving about 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS chemicals. Setting a legal limit, known as a maximum contaminant level or MCL, will require utilities to treat tap water to remove or lower PFAS contamination. States should also set their own legal limits. Since the EPA has failed to start the process to establish an MCL, state action is essential and urgent
- Direct the military to quickly clean up contaminated bases. EWG has identified and mapped 106 military sites in the U.S. where drinking water or groundwater is contaminated with PFAS chemicals at levels that exceed the EPA’s non-binding health advisory level.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.