Key PFAS Reform Provisions in Jeopardy

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For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, December 5, 2019

WASHINGTON – Manufacturers of the highly toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS may have scored a big win if key provisions to reduce releases and clean up these contaminants from drinking water sources were scrapped from a final defense spending bill before Congress.

Among the provisions ­– long championed by EWG and other public health advocates – which may be left out of the final National Defense Authorization Act of 2020:

  • Restricting PFAS discharges from manufacturers into drinking water supplies under the Clean Water Act.
  • Requiring water utilities to reduce the amount of PFAS in tap water under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Designating PFAS as “hazardous substances” under the federal Superfund law that requires cleanup of the most contaminated sites.

“Congress may once again fail to protect us from toxic PFAS chemicals,” said EWG Senior VP for Government Affairs Scott Faber. “If the reports are accurate, the defense spending bill will largely fail to reduce PFAS discharges into drinking water supplies, fail to keep it out of our tap water, and will let the Defense Department and others off the hook when it comes to cleaning up legacy PFAS pollution.”

“This is the definition of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “If this bill passes without these key provisions, millions of Americans will continue to be exposed to these dangerous substances for decades to come.”

Some good provisions may remain in the bill, including provisions to end the Defense Department’s use of PFAS in firefighting foam and food packaging, as well as provisions to expand monitoring for PFAS in ground water and tap water and to require reporting of PFAS releases by manufacturers.

The Environmental Protection Agency is doing almost nothing to address the nationwide PFAS contamination crisis. The amendments in the defense bill were the best chance to begin to take the concrete steps needed to clean up drinking water sources and hold polluters accountable, Faber said.

 “The right way to tackle PFAS in our tap water is to stop further discharges into our drinking water and force polluters to pay their fair share for cleanup – and none of that may happen if this bill becomes law,” he said.

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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.