New Bipartisan Senate Legislation Aims to Spur Federal Response to PFAS Crisis

WASHINGTON – The contamination of drinking water and groundwater by toxic fluorinated compounds, known as PFAS chemicals, is a national crisis demanding a national response. Today, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, which has one of the most severe problems, introduced bipartisan legislation to help the federal government investigate the extent of PFAS pollution and to clean up contaminated communities.


Stabenow, who championed bipartisan agreements to fix and upgrade Flint’s drinking water infrastructure after that city’s lead crisis, introduced two bills to expedite the government’s response to the PFAS emergency. One would accelerate the government’s  work to improve detection of PFAS contamination, and the other would improve cooperation between state regulators and the Pentagon to address PFAS contamination near military installations.


EWG has investigated the human health hazards of these fluorinated compounds for more than 20 years and has partnered with Northeastern University to maintain the most comprehensive resource available to track PFAS pollution in the U.S.


“We applaud Sen. Stabenow for making our public health a national priority,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president of government affairs. “These toxic PFAS chemicals have no place in our drinking water.”


Stabenow’s first bill is the PFAS Detection Act of 2018, which would authorize $45 million over five years for the U.S. Geological Survey to develop advanced testing methods for finding PFAS chemicals in the environment. These advanced testing methods would be able to detect larger numbers of these chemicals at lower levels. The bill includes funds for USGS sampling of estuaries, lakes, streams, springs, wells, wetlands and soil for PFAS chemicals.


Senators Gary Peters, D-Mich.; Tom Carper, D-Del.; and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., are co-sponsoring the bill.  


The second bill, the PFAS Accountability Act of 2018, urges the Department of Defense to cooperate with states as PFAS contamination is detected in communities near federal installations.  The legislation will facilitate testing, monitoring, removal and remediation when these chemicals are detected in the water and soil.


Senators Gary Peters, D-Mich.; Tom Carper, D-Del.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., have signed on as co-sponsors of the PFAS Accountability Act of 2018.


“Many Americans are surprised and outraged to learn that PFAS chemicals are in their bodies,” said David Andrews, Ph.D., a senior scientist at EWG. “These chemicals are detected in our blood and drinking water almost every time someone tests for them. The Environmental Protection Agency’s current guidelines for PFAS levels in drinking water are based on outdated science and woefully underestimate the risks posed to human health.”


A recent EWG analysis suggests that tap water supplies for an estimated 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFOA, PFOS and similar fluorinated chemicals, but many of the suspected contamination sites remain unknown. Stabenow’s bills will go a long way to identify the locations and scale of PFAS pollution in communities across the U.S. 

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