Read the full article by Alex Kuffner (The Providence Journal)

“PROVIDENCE — Last February, a top official with the Rhode Island Department of Health assured lawmakers that the state was on the verge of coming up with regulations on so-called ‘forever chemicals’ found in firefighting foam, cookware and food packaging that have contaminated drinking water supplies across the nation.

A drinking water standard for compounds in the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance, or PFAS, family would be presented to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s office in March and be ready for the public to see by May, associate director of health Seema Dixit told the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee at a hearing on Feb. 6, 2020.

But that was before the start of the coronavirus outbreak, which has required an all-hands-on-deck response from the health department. The spring passed without any PFAS regulations, then summer and fall.

Nearly a year has gone by without any word, and environmental advocates are growing nervous about where things stand with imposing limits in drinking water on the chemicals that have been linked with developmental disorders in children, cancer, hormonal problems and increases in cholesterol levels. 

There are worries that the rules will be further delayed if they don’t move forward before Raimondo leaves for her new position in Washington as U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

‘We’re anxiously awaiting the announcement of PFAS regulations,’ said Amy Moses, Rhode Island director of the Conservation Law Foundation. ‘We absolutely should have safe drinking water.’

A spokeswoman for the health department referred questions about approval of the regulations to the governor’s office, adding that the department is preparing materials on the PFAS issue for Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee, who is set to take over from Raimondo. Audrey Lucas, spokeswoman for Raimondo, said the governor’s office has been working with the state health department and the Department of Environmental Management on the regulations. She said the health department is finalizing a written recommendation.

In November, Amy Parmenter, interim chief for the health department’s Center for Drinking Water Quality, told an environmental business group that the governor’s office was alreadyreviewing draft regulations for approval.

In her presentation to the Environmental Business Council of New England, Parmenter said she and other staff from the health department had met with the governor’s office in March and were told ‘to continue developing the regulations, but that they would get back to us once they had a chance’ to delve into something other than COVID…”