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“Every state in the country has sites contaminated by PFAS, a class of thousands of chemicals that are mostly used as coatings to make materials water and stain resistant. These chemicals, which were also used in firefighting, are associated with higher risks for asthma, liver damage, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, decreased fertility and other health problems, according to an assessment by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

PFAS contamination has been found at more than 400 sites on military installations in the U.S., according to the Department of Defense. Three have been identified in Maine.

Because the chemicals are so widespread, states and the federal government are scrambling to decide how best to limit the spread of PFAS contamination and how to clean up sites of significant contamination that threaten groundwater, food supplies and, hence, human health.

Congress has an opportunity to begin to address this nationwide problem. Last week, the House passed a bill that would add PFAS to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s hazardous substance list, which could trigger Superfund designations for hundreds of contaminated sites across the country. The bill would also require the EPA to set standards for testing, monitoring and treatment of PFAS in drinking water…

The House-passed bill faces dim prospects in the Senate, and President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the measure if it reaches his desk. In a statement, the White House said it favors more study and continued work with communities rather than quick federal action. The statement also references costs, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will exceed $300 million in federal spending by 2029, under the House bill. This is, of course, a significant sum. But, as we’ve learned from the containment and removal of other hazardous substances, costs only grow as action is delayed.

Senate bill is more limited in scope, requiring the EPA to designate PFAS as hazardous chemicals. But, it would be better than nothing…

While it is true that much more remains to be learned about PFAS, what we know so far about the health consequences of exposure to these chemicals, and the extent of PFAS contamination in Maine, should prompt quick and comprehensive action to minimize exposure to these dangerous chemicals…”