Read the full article by Emily C. Dooley (Bloomberg Law)
“Six states with drinking water standards for so-called ‘forever chemicals’ are now wrestling with what those limits mean when water contamination from Department of Defense sites seep into their communities.
Members of Congress from both parties are starting to vent their frustration at military foot-dragging even as the states take different paths to address the contamination. One state is suing. Another must wait years for an investigation to end. A third is keeping a watchful eye on the Biden administration.
The crux of the issue is that PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—barely talked about a few decades go—are showing up in water, air, and food nationwide.Some of the contamination has also been linked to PFAS-laced firefighting foam used on military bases.
States grappling with how to keep drinking water safe from the chemicals have set legal limits. Since 2019,Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont have set their own maximum contaminant levels for some PFAS in water, ranging from 8 to 20 parts per trillion. A Virginia standard will take effect in 2022. Some of the chemicals can cause certain cancers, developmental delays, and even vaccine resistance.
But the federal Environmental Protection Agency has no enforceable drinking water standard PFAS. Instead, it set a health advisory level for two of the substances at 70 parts per trillion combined.
‘The states that have set these limits and EPA seem to have a different opinion about what is a safe level,’ said Michael Wimsatt, director of the waste management division in New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services.
The gap gives the military some room to avoid more stringent state limits because of their differing authority given through federal regulations.
Congress Wants Action
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to press the issuewith the Defense Department, spokesman Angelo Roefaro said lastweek.
In October, Schumer sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy to expand PFAS investigations at the former Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in Calverton, N.Y. He also asked the Navy to provide public water connections where PFAS levels in private wells exceed the state standard.
‘Only in this way can the Navy reassure the community that it is acting in the best interest of public health for the community which it has called home for so many years,’ Schumer wrote. The Navy hasn’t responded, Roefaro said.
Schumer isn’t alone. On Jan. 29, a group of 132 Republican and Democratic legislators asked President Joe Biden in a letter to direct federal agencies to act on PFAS. Legislators from both parties also criticized the Defense Department for a lack of action during the task force meeting.
‘The federal government is the federal government,’ Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said during a congressional PFAS task force meeting. ‘We shouldn’t have one branch of government regulating PFAS, and the other one trying to avoid regulations. And unfortunately that’s been the position of the DOD and it’s just not acceptable…’”