Read the full article by Eric Schmid (St. Louis Public Radio)
“Environmental groups in Illinois are again pushing for state lawmakers to pass legislation that would ban the incineration of a toxic class of chemicals known as PFAS.
This comes after the Illinois House and Senate both unanimously passed a nearly identical bill last year, before Gov. J.B. Pritzker vetoed it.
‘We thought a unanimous vote in both houses was a sign that we were on the right road,’ said Sonya Lunder, the Sierra Club’s senior toxics policy adviser, who was involved in the development of the bill.
PFAS refers broadly to thousands of synthetic chemicals found in common household products like nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing and stain repellent for carpet. It’s also one of the main components of many firefighting foams stored at municipal and military installations.
Pritzker ultimately vetoed the bill because of how incineration was defined. He said in a letter the bill would prohibit companies from using pollution control devices, like thermal oxidation, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions and the release of other hazardous air pollutants.
The chemistry of PFAS — a strong carbon-fluorine bond — means the substances don’t break down in human bodies and the environment. It has been linked to groundwater contamination, and exposure can cause cancer and other serious health ailments.
Last year’s legislation grew from concern over the Defense Department’s authorization of Veolia Environmental Services’ incinerator in Sauget to dispose of the substance. Lunder said it was designed to help communities like East St. Louis and Cahokia Heights, which have been overburdened with historic pollution.
‘The bill made a lot of sense,’ she said. ‘It passed because legislators understood this was a heavily impacted community by multiple types of contamination. We shouldn’t be adding new and questionable chemicals to their community.’
A spokesperson for Veolia said the company does not accept material where PFAS is identified, but notes that the chemical is common in many products and that it cannot ensure no PFAS pass through the Sauget incinerator.
Environmentalists also wanted to build from a similar law in New York that bans the burning of PFAS in certain communities.
‘We needed to take a preemptive strike,’ said Nicole Saulsberry, Sierra Club’s Illinois state government representative, at a recent virtual town hall.
‘We wanted to take it a step further to ban PFAS incineration across the state no matter where it is.’
Lunder and other environmentalists pushed for a blanket ban on burning PFAS because of their concerns that the chemicals, which are designed to resist heat, don’t fully break down from incineration.”…