Shaheen PFAS amendment included in national water infrastructure bill

April 30, 2021

PORTSMOUTH – The Senate overwhelmingly passed a national drinking water infrastructure bill Thursday, which included a PFAS-related amendment drafted by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

The Senate voted 89-2 to pass the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021, which will now move to the U.S. House of Representatives for approval.

The comprehensive drinking water and wastewater infrastructure package will increase economic growth, enhance the health and well-being of American families and prioritize environmental concerns, Shaheen's office said.

Shaheen's bipartisan amendment, which was included in the legislation, calls for modifying the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities program to allow states to assist more households, including those who rely on private wells, impacted by dangerous contaminants such as PFAS. 

Shaheen’s amendment would expand eligibility for the program to allow states to use funding on behalf of small and disadvantaged communities.

Her bipartisan provision is co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Republican Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

"Safe and clean drinking water should be a fundamental right for every household. Today, the Senate took a critical step forward to meet that standard," Shaheen said Thursday. "This bipartisan drinking water and wastewater infrastructure package is an urgently needed investment and overhaul to ensure every Granite Stater and American can trust the water they’re serving their families."

"I’m particularly pleased that my bipartisan amendment was included, which will expand a program administered by the EPA to assist communities that rely on private wells and have been impacted by contaminants like PFAS or pollutants like arsenic," Shaheen added. "It doesn’t matter where you get your water – no one should worry about their health when they turn on the tap."

Shaheen has advocated in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination, respond to the chemical exposure and remediate polluted sites. 

She began her efforts after it was learned that thousands of people working at Pease International Tradeport, along with children and infants who attended two day cares there, were exposed to multiple PFAS chemicals from contaminated water in the Portsmouth-owned Haven well until its closure in 2014. The water was contaminated by firefighting foam used at the former Pease Air Force Base.

In addition to being a suspected carcinogen, PFAS exposure can harm childhood development, increase cholesterol levels, hurt the immune system and interfere with human hormones, according to the Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

Legislation Shaheen sponsored created the first-in-the nation PFAS health study and the ongoing Pease Health Study pilot, which is seeking to determine the health effects on adults and children who were exposed to PFAS.

The Pease Health Study is seeking a total of 1,000 adults who were exposed to the contaminated water and 350 kids ages 4 to 17.

You can still sign up to participate in the health study by calling 603-846-6192.

At Senator Shaheen’s insistence, government funding legislation passed by Congress and signed into law in December included $1 million in funding for new grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support the development of education courses on best practices for physicians who are caring for patients with significant PFAS exposure.

Shaheen and Rounds (R-SD) previously partnered to introduce bipartisan legislation that would create grants for these best practices courses. 

By:  Jeff McMenemy
Source: Portsmouth Herald