Shaheen, Hassan co-sponsor PFAS bill

March 03, 2019

PORTSMOUTH -- U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is co-sponsoring a bill that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to declare PFAS chemicals hazardous substances that are eligible for federal cleanup funds.

The lead sponsor of the bill, which is called The PFAS Action Act, is U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware. They are joined by a group of bipartisan co-sponsors, including U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.

The bill would require the EPA to act within one year of its passage and declare PFAS chemicals hazardous substances under the EPA's Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which is more commonly known as the Superfund law.

The bill would require responsible parties to report the excess release of PFAS materials to state and local emergency response officials and be held liable for the costs of response actions, including public health studies by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

The bill would authorize federal response to releases of all PFAS chemicals, not just PFOA and PFOS, if the release presents "a substantial danger to the environment or public health," according to a press release from Shaheen's office.

"Families in New Hampshire shouldn't have to worry about the safety of their drinking water every time they turn on the tap," Shaheen said Friday. "As the nationwide PFAS health impact study moves forward to understand the potential health implications related to PFAS exposure, it's important that Congress take additional steps to help communities address existing contamination, increase transparency and hold responsible parties accountable for keeping our environment and water supplies clean."

Thousands of people working at Pease International Tradeport, along with children and infants who attended two day-care centers there, were exposed to multiple PFAS chemicals from contaminated water in the city-owned Haven well until its closure in 2014.

Investigators believe the well was contaminated by PFAS used in firefighting foam at the former Air Force base, which remains a Superfund cleanup site.

The city of Portsmouth closed the well at the tradeport in May 2014 after the Air Force found high levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, in the well.

The EPA in May 2016 set nonbinding permanent health advisories for PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, at 70 parts per trillion.

PFAS are man-made chemicals used in products worldwide since the 1950s, including firefighting foam, non-stick cookware and water-repellent fabrics and carpet.

In addition to being a suspected carcinogen, the ATSDR states PFAS exposure can harm childhood development, increase cholesterol levels, hurt the immune system and interfere with the human body’s hormones.

Hassan stated that requiring "the EPA designates all PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances is an important step to help ensure the safety of drinking water in New Hampshire and across the country."

"The EPA has dragged its feet for far too long when it comes to this issue, and I will keep working with members of both parties to ensure that the EPA does its job to keep our communities safe," she said.

Shaheen passed legislation that established and paid for the first national health study on the health effects of PFAS in drinking water.

The tradeport, the home of the former Pease Air Force Base, will serve as a model for the nationwide study because of Shaheen’s legislation.

By:  Jeff McMenemy
Source: Portsmouth Herald