NCSL - National Conference of State Legislatures

07/12/2018 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/12/2018 20:10

Lawmakers Tackling PFAS in Drinking Water

By Doug Farquhar

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, or PFAS, are man-made chemicals found in waters across this country. Legislatures are tackling this problem, none more so than in Michigan.

'People are scared of PFAS because of so much unknown,' Michigan Senator Peter MacGregor (R ), sponsor of legislation on PFAS, told Grand Rapids TV station WZZM. 'This is just not a local issue; this is all over the place.'

These chemicals, widely used in food packaging, stain- and water-repellant fabrics, nonstick products such as Teflon, and in fire-fighting foams, have been linked to cancers and other health issues.

'People in our area have some very real concerns about how PFAS affects their lives,' Michigan Representative Sue Allor (R ), sponsor of a House resolution on PFAS (HR 228), told Traverse City station WPBN.

PFAS contamination in groundwater is a growing concern across the nation, potentially harming people who drink well water. In Michigan, the chemical has been detected in drinking water at 28 sites in 14 communities.

The Michigan legislature has introduced 13 bills to address the chemical in groundwater and drinking water. The legislature adopted HR 228 in February 2018 which proposes a framework for state agencies to address PFAS.

Language was added to the 2017 appropriations bill demanding the U.S. Department of Defense reimburse the state for the costs associated with PFAS and environmental contamination at military sites. Another bill which failed sought to make the standard for PFAS in the state 14 times lower than the current EPA health advisory.

McGregor's legislation demands the EPA establish a national environmental limit for PFAS and increase coordination and support. The House Oversight committee chair Joseph Graves (R ) says he intends to hold hearings on the PFAS contamination in the state.

The Federal Agency on Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released a toxicological profile, known as a 'tox profile,' on PFAS for public comment in the Federal Register in June. A tox profile provides an examination, summary and interpretation of available studies on the health effects of a hazardous substance, designed to assist health professionals in states.

'It boils down to trying to protect the people in the state of Michigan,' says McGregor.

NCSL will explore how states and the federal government respond to PFAS and other contaminants in drinking water on Aug. 1 at the Legislative Summit in Los Angeles, Calif. The session, 'America's Drinking Water: Is It Safe?' will discuss methods and approaches to ensuring the nation's drinking water remains safe.

Water Pollution Action in New Hampshire

Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill yesterday requiring the state environmental agency to review groundwater standards for chemical pollutants, while setting pollution standards for two other contaminants by 2019.

The compounds include PFOA, PFOS, PFNA and PFHxS. They have been found near military bases and industrial sites around the country and are known for their use in making Teflon.

The town of Portsmouth had to close a well after finding contaminated water, while PFNAs were found at dangerous levels near the Coakley Superfund site.

'There is no greater faith in government that we place than every time we turn on the faucet and hand our kids a glass of water,' Sununu said, according to WMUR-TV. 'We are really trusting that the government did their job and that water is safe to give to our kids'

Doug Farquhar directs the Environmental Health program at NCSL.

Email Doug.