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Senators Press EPA for Action on PFAS

February 18, 2020 by Dan McCue
U.S. Capitol, January 16, 2020. (Photo by Dan McCue)

A year after the EPA pledged to act on limiting exposure to a class of extremely hazardous chemicals, a group of Senators is asking why the agency has yet to fulfill its commitments and when it plans to do so.

The group, comprised of 30 Senators, sent a letter Tuesday to EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler requesting he provide an updated timeline for when the agency will implement its strategy for limiting human exposure to exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

The EPA released its plan – the PFAS Action Plan – over one year ago and has yet to act on it.

“As you are aware, communities across the country are struggling to respond to the widespread issue of PFAS contamination. The human health risks from this class of chemicals, which include birth defects, various forms of cancer, and immune system dysfunction, are still being examined, and the uncertainty has caused great concern among our constituents,” the senators wrote.

In March 2019, legislation was introduced in the Senate to declare PFAS as hazardous substances under the EPA Superfund law. The designation would allow federal funds to be used to clean up groundwater contamination due to PFAS spills and mandate responsible parties report spills of PFAS and be held liable for cleanup.

In December, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, one of the letter’s signers, secured provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act – which was signed into law – that would include tougher standards to crack down on PFAS contamination and require the DOD to be more transparent with communities affected by the contamination.

“The health and environmental threats posed by PFAS are significant,” the senators’ letter concludes. “Communities across America demand that the EPA help protect them from PFAS exposure. They deserve the confidence that their water is safe and free from harmful levels of PFAS contamination.”

In addition to Brown, the letter was also signed by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Tom Carper, D-Del., Debbie Stabenow, D- Mich., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Angus King, I-Maine, Ed Markey, D-Mass., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

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