What they’re saying about the EPA’s proposal to regulate ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

On March 14, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a historic proposal to tackle drinking water contamination from the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. The proposed maximum contaminant levels, or MCLs, would set limits on six notorious PFAS to get these toxic chemicals out of our drinking water: PFOA, PFOS, GenX, PFBS, PFNA and PFHxS.

Here’s what leaders from environmental, health and community advocacy organizations are saying about the EPA’s announcement, which marks historic progress on addressing PFAS:

Anna Reade, Ph.D., senior scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council: “Regulating these six highly toxic PFAS chemicals in drinking water is a historic start to protecting our families and communities.” Press release

Southern Environmental Law Center: “The best way to meet the protective new standards announced today by the EPA is to stop PFAS, or ‘forever chemicals,’ pollution at its source before it gets into drinking water sources and burdens downstream communities.” Press release

Tony Spaniola, co-chair, Great Lakes PFAS Action Network: “The EPA’s proposed drinking water standards are an important milestone in the fight to protect public health and will save lives in impacted communities on the frontlines of the PFAS crisis. This is an A-plus decision by the Biden administration for frontline communities. We urge that the proposed drinking water standards be adopted and implemented with all deliberate speed.” Press statement

Cheryl Cail, Idle No More South Carolina: “Today the EPA has demonstrated that it will take the necessary steps to address the harms PFAS has caused to human health and our environment. We know this will be a long and arduous road ahead, as there have been many decades of environmental injustice for those who have not been heard. The shift to hear from all voices has had an incredible impact, and we will continue to support the Environmental Justice work of the EPA as we advocate for clean water for all and a healthier planet.”

Joanne Stanton and Hope Grosse, Co-founders, Buxmont Coalition for Safer Water: “We at Buxmont Coalition for Safer Water have been working for PFAS federal drinking water regulations for nearly a decade now. We have seen the devastating impacts these toxic chemicals have had on the health of children in our community. We are grateful for the strong action the EPA has taken to protect the health of America’s unborn babies; pre-polluted with these toxic chemicals before they ever take their first breathe. This is long awaited good news! We are so thankful that the EPA has taken such strong action to protect our nations drinking water from these toxic chemicals. This drinking water standard will save lives, preventing cancer and other PFAS related diseases that have plagued our local community for decades. It also sends a strong message to polluters that there is no SAFE level for these toxic chemicals. This is a historic day!”

Loreen Hackett, PFOA Project New York: “Having been dealing with PFAS since our water was found severely contaminated in 2014, and with all of our advocacy since, regulations at these lower levels certainly have been a long time coming and are most gratifying. We are pleased to have an EPA who listened, gave affected communities a seat at the table, which we’d never had before, and followed through in the necessity to protect the health of all families from these harmful chemicals.”

Andrea Amico, co-founder, Testing for Pease: “EPA’s strong new limits for these six PFAS chemicals will prevent serious illnesses and save lives. EPA must keep its momentum. Almost 9 years ago, I learned my family was drinking highly contaminated water with PFAS. It devastated me and I knew more needed to be done to prevent others from being exposed to PFAS. The MCLs announcement from the EPA today is life changing and life saving and I’m deeply grateful for this bold and much needed action.”

Buxmont Coalition for Safer Water: “We at Buxmont Coalition for Safer Water have been working for PFAS federal drinking water regulations for nearly a decade now. We have seen the devastating impacts these toxic chemicals have had on the health of children in our community. We are grateful for the strong action the EPA has taken to protect the health of America’s unborn babies: pre-polluted with these toxic chemicals before they ever take their first breath.”

Rob Hayes, director of clean water, Environmental Advocates NY: “Everyone who wants to drink clean water should be overjoyed at the EPA’s announcement. This is the national leadership on drinking water safety that we’ve been waiting for. The proposed MCLs for PFOA and PFOS will lead to cleaner drinking water for over a million New Yorkers. Today’s historic victory is the result of years-long advocacy by PFAS-impacted communities and scientists, who demanded that our government stop exposure to these cancer-causing chemicals.” Press statement

Tracy Carluccio, deputy director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network: “This action by the EPA will finally begin the process to provide equal protection for all Americans from toxic exposure through drinking water to some of the worst and most prevalently found PFAS compounds. The science-based foundation developed by the EPA for this rule provides incontrovertible evidence of the enormous risks to health posed by these PFAS compounds, including declaring both PFOA and PFOS to be ‘likely carcinogens.’ The benefits calculated by the EPA include the prevention of tens of thousands of deaths per year, making immediate action imperative. The federal rule has been a long time coming and we will advocate that the public rulemaking process move ahead on urgent footing.” Press statement

Sarah Woodbury, director of advocacy, Defend Our Health: “We applaud the EPA for taking action to set strong standards for PFAS in drinking water to stem this direct threat to public health. We have seen the serious impacts of PFAS drinking water contamination here in Maine. It’s tragic that some Mainers were exposed for years to unsafe levels of these so-called ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water. If approved, the EPA’s new drinking water standards will protect the health of thousands of Mainers across the state.” Press statement

Dana Colihan, co-facilitator, National PFAS Contamination Coalition and co-executive director, Slingshot: “This is a victory for us all, and especially environmental justice communities that have been disproportionately exposed to PFAS contamination. We urge the EPA to implement these recommendations as swiftly as possible.” Press statement

Elizabeth Southerland, Ph.D., volunteer, Environmental Protection Network, and former EPA Office of Water director of science and technology: “This is the most stringent standard the EPA can impose and is based on the best available science and the detection limit of the EPA’s analytical method. The public health benefits of these protective drinking water standards dwarf the costs of achieving them, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law offsets those costs with billions of dollars for small or disadvantaged communities to address PFAS.” Press statement

Sonya Lunder, senior toxics policy advisor, Sierra Club: “The EPA’s strong new limits for these six PFAS chemicals will prevent serious illnesses and save lives. The EPA must keep its momentum by issuing rules to limit the production and use of PFAS chemicals and control their cleanup and disposal. In the long term, polluting industries, not the public, must pay the full cost of removing these ‘forever chemicals’ from the environment.” Press statement

Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States, Toxic-Free Future: “We applaud the Biden administration for following the lead of the states and stepping up to protect communities from these toxic ‘forever chemicals.’ These proposed standards are a positive step forward and reinforce the need for all parts of government to address the PFAS crisis. We urge the federal government to continue to follow the lead of states and phase out the production and use of these chemicals in favor of safer solutions, so that we stop adding PFAS to our already polluted water, land and air.” Press statement

Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, attorney, Earthjustice: “For the millions of people with PFAS in their tap water, strong national drinking water standards cannot come soon enough. Today’s proposal is a necessary and long overdue step towards addressing the nation’s PFAS crisis, but what comes next is equally important. The EPA must resist efforts to weaken this proposal, move quickly to finalize health-protective limits on these six chemicals, and address the remaining PFAS that continue to poison drinking water supplies and harm communities across the country.” Press statement

Robert Wendelgass, president and CEO, Clean Water Action: “The EPA’s proposed limits on PFAS chemicals in drinking water will prevent serious illness and death. We urge EPA to be equally decisive in holding polluters accountable for contaminated drinking water all over the country and in curtailing the many thousand PFAS chemicals in everyday use.” Press release

Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., scientist emeritus and former director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: “I am so pleased that the EPA has finally proposed stringent regulations of PFAS in drinking water. Going forward, this will improve both public health and the environment.”

Emily Donovan, co-founder, Clean Cape Fear: “Everyone deserves access to health-protective drinking water. It is a basic human right. We applaud the Biden EPA for having the courage to do what multiple administrations could not. Today is a good step towards tackling our nation’s massive PFAS public health crisis by including commercially relevant PFAS like GenX. We now need every office within the EPA and all other federal agencies to use a whole of government approach to address PFAS as a class, stop all exposures at their source, make responsible parties pay for the clean-up, and give overexposed communities access to health monitoring.” Press statement

Laurene Allen, co-founder, Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water: “The EPA delivered what no previous administration has done by taking an immense first step in addressing our nation’s PFAS contamination in drinking water crisis. By regulating these toxic chemicals on a federal level, the EPA has ensured that a community’s exposure and health risks will no longer be ignored and no longer differ by state.” Press statement

Linda Robles, founder, Environmental Justice Task Force: “We are overwhelmed with joy at EPA’s new proposed PFAS drinking water standards. EPA is proposing to regulate six PFAS chemicals in our drinking water, including PFOA and PFOS, and will consider cumulative risk impacts of multiple mixtures of the toxic chemicals. People in our south-side Tucson community drink, bathe and cook with water contaminated by PFAS because we can’t afford to leave our homes and relocate at the drop of a dime. The harm caused to our health by PFAS contamination in our drinking water transcends generations.”

Matt Casale, environment campaigns director, U.S. PIRG Education Fund: “Pervasive PFAS should be a thing of the past and this EPA proposal puts us on the right path. Too many Americans are exposed every day to these ubiquitous chemicals that lurk around our house and in our pipes. Saying ‘nevermore’ to ‘forever chemicals’ in our drinking water is the right thing to do. These new standards are a realistic way to start that process.” Press statement

Dana Sargent, executive director, Cape Fear River Watch: “Our public trust waters, including the Cape Fear River – the drinking water supply for 500,000 people in North Carolina – have been assaulted by PFAS polluters who put profit over people, and who were virtually unchecked and effectively supported by our federal government for decades. Cape Fear River Watch is grateful for the strong and crucial drinking water regulations proposed by the EPA today, which alone will not hold polluters accountable, but which remain crucial steps in the colossal fight for clean water for our community and countless others across the country.”

Arthur Bowman III, policy director, Center for Environmental Health: “With drinking water standards, we can finally begin to ‘turn off the tap’ of these toxic ‘forever chemicals.’ This is a victory for the Black and Indigenous and other community-based organizations that pressured the EPA to do something about decades of PFAS contamination. But the agency must not forget the PFAS in the water came from somewhere. The EPA must now make Chemours and others responsible pay for all associated costs of PFAS contamination without placing the burden on taxpayers.”

Yvonne Taylor, vice president, Seneca Lake Guardian: “We applaud the federal government's proposal to take strong action on PFAS regulation. If finalized, this rule will prevent thousands of PFAS related deaths and illnesses. [New York] Gov. [Kathy] Hochul must follow suit. The Finger Lakes contain 8.2 trillion gallons of fresh water, which serves as drinking water for more than 1.5 million residents, providing more than 200 million gallons of drinking water every day. The state's largest landfill, Seneca Meadows, is producing 200,000 gallons of toxic PFAS-laden leachate every day, threatening our state's freshwater resources. New York's Department of Health must strengthen its PFAS MCL proposal to be in line with the EPA's and protect New Yorkers from the incredibly harmful impacts of these chemicals.” Press statement

California Environmental Voters: "We are thrilled to see the EPA take action to protect communities. It's no secret that PFAS Chemicals are dangerous, but corporate polluters have spent millions of dollars over decades to avoid responsibility and restitution -and continue to do so. This is a big step towards changing that, and it couldn't come soon enough.”

The Endocrine Society: “The Endocrine Society supports a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule which includes provisions to regulate several per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—including PFOA and PFOS—found in our drinking water.

The proposed regulation sets an aggressive limit for these PFAS and their mixtures and acknowledges effects at extremely low levels by proposing a health based Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCGL) of zero.” Press statement

Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, joint statement:

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) welcome the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) draft Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) as a critical step toward reducing Americans' exposures to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) through drinking water.  Minnesota has been working for decades to protect people from negative health effects of PFAS exposure. For more than 20 years, our state has led efforts to recognize the impacts of PFAS and protect Minnesotans by establishing health-based guidance values for PFOS, PFOA and several other PFAS. Public drinking water systems have been using these values as their guide to provide safe drinking water for customers and private well owners have been using this guidance to ensure the safety of their water.  Press statement

New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York Department of Health (DOH), joint statement:

New York State applauds President Biden and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Regan for recently proposing enforceable national drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, and proposing additional actions to limit exposure to PFNA, GenX, PFHxS, and PFBS. To be clear, all New York State public drinking water is already required to meet federal and state drinking water standards, and state residents can continue to drink their water unless told otherwise by their public water system, or the local or state health department. As a state that is committed to having the safest drinking water possible, we look forward to working with the EPA in advancing public health protections of drinking water supplies. DOH and DEC will be thoroughly evaluating the EPA’s regulatory proposal and tracking its progress as we continue with aggressive actions to reduce New Yorkers’ PFAS exposure and will advance the state’s regulatory program using the best available science to ensure protections for water quality and public health.

Pete Bucher, Chief of Staff for the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC):

Regulating some PFAS at 4 parts per trillion is a good start toward protecting our nation’s drinking water. Based on numerous studies, we believe these standards should be more stringent, but we also understand that the U.S. EPA is taking into account what can feasibly be measured right now. To better protect our drinking water, public health and the environment, it’s imperative that the U.S. EPA acts urgently to regulate all PFAS—including those found in surface water, a primary source of drinking water…”  Press statement

Dan Shapley, co-director, science and patrol, Riverkeeper: Riverkeeper has supported health-protective PFAS standards such as those EPA proposed today. “We’ve seen that PFAS contaminate many drinking water supplies in New York State, especially in the lower and mid-Hudson Valley. Once in force, these new federal standards will mean many more water systems will require treatment, and many more of our neighbors will be protected from exposure to these risky ‘forever chemicals.’”  Press statement

Madeleine Foote, deputy legislative director, League of Conservation Voters: “These first-ever national drinking water standards are a huge win for communities all across the country whose health has been jeopardized by toxic ‘forever chemicals.’ We commend the Biden-Harris administration for following the science that continues to link PFAS to health problems including certain cancers, thyroid disease, neurological development issues, weakened immune systems, and more. Chemical companies have known and hidden the risks that PFAS pose to our health and environment for decades, and we must ensure that the costs of these critical safeguards fall on them, not consumers, and that they are held accountable for the damage they have done. We urge the administration to quickly finalize these important drinking water protections and continue taking other actions, like imposing limits on additional PFAS, to protect our health from these dangerous chemicals.” Press statement

Mark Ruffalo, actor and activist: “After decades of delay, President Biden’s EPA has delivered a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS which, when finalized, will be the toughest in the nation. By proposing to regulate four other PFAS as a mixture, the Biden EPA is also putting our communities ahead of the polluters. President Biden and his team pledged to make PFAS a priority and he has delivered. No Administration has done more to address the urgent threat posed by these toxic forever chemicals than the Biden Administration. My message to polluters is simple: after poisoning your workers and neighbors for decades, it is time to make our public health, not your profits, our top priority. My message to communities devastated by PFAS pollution is equally simple: help is finally on the way.” Press statement

Members of congress and the administration

Administrator Michael S. Regan, EPA: “Communities across this country have suffered far too long from the ever-present threat of PFAS pollution. That’s why President Biden launched a whole-of-government approach to aggressively confront these harmful chemicals, and EPA is leading the way forward. EPA’s proposal to establish a national standard for PFAS in drinking water is informed by the best available science, and would help provide states with the guidance they need to make decisions that best protect their communities. This action has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of PFAS-related illnesses and marks a major step toward safeguarding all our communities from these dangerous contaminants.” Press statement

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.): “I’ve long pushed for national standards to limit toxic PFAS in drinking water, and I secured $10B in our infrastructure law for PFAS clean-up. The Biden @EPA’s proposed PFAS standard is a great step forward. I won’t stop fighting to keep Americans’ drinking water safe from PFAS.” Tweet

Senator Shelley Moore Capito (W.V.), Ranking Member of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: “After years of urging three consecutive administrations of different parties to do so, I’m pleased a safe drinking water standard has finally been issued for PFOA and PFOS. I’m looking forward to hearing from those who will be impacted by this announcement, including local water systems and ratepayers across the country, on how we can provide assistance for implementation. No one should have to wonder if their water is safe to drink, and it’s critical that we get this important regulation right.” Press statement

Senator Tom Carper (Del.), Chair of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: “For years, the presence of toxic forever chemicals in our drinking water has threatened the health and well-being of far too many communities across our nation. Thanks to President Biden’s leadership, EPA is taking a significant step forward in addressing PFAS contamination with today’s announcement. I’m beyond proud of Administrator Regan and the leadership at EPA for proposing a science-based, national drinking water standard that prioritizes public health. Additionally, I look forward to working with the Biden administration on moving this standard through the regulatory process without delay.” Press statement

Representative Dan Kildee (Mich.-8), Co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force: “Access to safe, affordable and reliable drinking water should be a right, not a luxury. For far too long, the federal government has not acted to protect the American people from PFAS chemicals in our drinking water. After past presidents have failed to act, I applaud President Biden and his administration for proposing stronger drinking water standards. As co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force, I will continue working with Republicans and Democrats to protect families from PFAS.” Press statement

Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.-1), Co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Taskforce: “Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction as we work to prevent the future contamination of PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ in our water and I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to enforce a high standard of water quality.” Press statement

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.): “I applaud Administrator Regan and President Biden for taking this bold step forward that will help ensure our water is safe for New Hampshire families and that parents have the peace of mind they deserve when they turn on the tap. This has long been a top concern for me and is why as a lead negotiator of the water provisions in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, I fought to include a historic level of funding - $10 billion – to combat PFAS exposure. These dollars will be crucial in providing our municipalities with the resources they will need to comply with these new regulations so that together we can prioritize clean water for our communities. As this process moves forward and with the anticipation of the rule being finalized, I urge the Biden administration to move swiftly and ensure timely allocation of funds from the infrastructure bill to assist public water operators as they begin work to meet these new enforceable drinking water levels.” Press statement

Senator Maggie Hassan (N.H.): “Granite Staters know all too well the dangers of PFAS chemicals, which is why I’ve pushed the administration and my colleagues in Congress to help communities make real progress in addressing hazardous PFAS contamination. The proposed rule creates strong, enforceable drinking water limits for PFAS, and is an important step forward in ensuring that every household has access to clean, safe, and reliable drinking water. I will keep working with the administration and in Congress to combat dangerous PFAS contamination.” Press statement

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.): “This is a major victory for New York families. I’ve been calling for the EPA to set limits on toxic, cancer-causing PFAS chemicals in our water for years. And finally, they’re taking the steps needed to ensure that every family has the safe, clean drinking water they deserve.” Tweet

Senator Chris Van Hollen (Md.): “For years many of us have sounded the alarm on PFAS pollution. These ‘forever chemicals’ threaten the wellbeing of our children, families & communities — we must do everything we can to get them out of our drinking water. This is a historic & necessary move from @EPA.” Tweet

Senator Dick Durbin (Ill.): “In a major move to control PFAS exposure, the Biden Admin & @EPA proposed the first-ever national and legally enforceable limit on PFAS in drinking water. This will protect communities from serious illnesses and health problems caused by these forever chemicals.” Tweet

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.): “Everyone deserves access to clean water. Very glad to see the @EPA taking an important step to limit PFAS and protect public health.” Tweet

Senator Ed Markey (N.Y.): “The science is clear—PFAS is a growing problem in our waterways. @EPA’s proposal would set the first-ever national limits on PFAS in drinking water and be a major leap toward making these forever chemicals into never chemicals.” Tweet

Senator Tammy Duckworth (Ill.): “I applaud the EPA for taking historic action to protect more communities from these six chemicals that we know jeopardize our public health and the environment. Every American deserves safe, clean drinking water. And I’ll keep working every day to make that a reality.” Tweet

Representative Betty McCollum (Minn.-4): “Today’s announcement of EPA’s proposed rule to strictly limit ‘forever chemicals’ puts people’s health front and center. As Chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee last Congress, I prioritized increasing federal funding for PFAS remediation and research to help address PFAS contamination, determine the scope of the problem, and chart the course of action needed to keep people safe. Now all parties have to step up to the plate—federal, state, and local governments, as well as all private companies—to determine the next steps for detection, cleanup, and destruction of these chemicals. The focus of what must be done is clear: every community needs to have water that is safe to drink, and these regulations will achieve this goal.” Press statement

Representative Debbie Dingell (Mich.-6): “This is an important step by the EPA to take serious action to remove and keep PFAS out of our homes and out of our drinking water. With this proposed standard, the EPA is demonstrating their commitment to protecting Americans from the growing and urgent public health threat of PFAS. I look forward to continuing to work with the EPA to make sure we’re addressing all harmful PFAS chemicals, and appreciate this significant action to address the most notorious contaminants.” Press statement

Representative Haley Stevens (Mich.-11): “A major win for the environment and the American people! Today @EPA is proposing the first-ever national standard to limit PFAS in drinking water. Tackling and restricting PFAS will protect the health of hundreds of millions of people.” Tweet

Representative Chris Pappas (N.H.-1): “EPA has known for decades that PFAS is harmful to human health, and finally the agency is taking an essential step forward in establishing enforceable Maximum Contaminant Levels for certain PFAS chemicals in drinking water. I applaud this decision and know there is much more work to do to protect people and the environment from these hazardous substances. I will continue to focus on upgrading the infrastructure in communities that are contaminated with these 'forever chemicals' because everyone deserves safe, clean drinking water. Congress must continue to work on legislative solutions that promote public health and hold polluters accountable. I look forward to reintroducing the Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act again this year, a bipartisan bill that sets limits on industrial discharge of PFAS. All levels of government must continue to work together to tackle the challenge of contaminated water and ensure public health and safety come first.” Press statement


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