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Shaheen touts effort to designate some PFAS chemicals as hazardous

Senator visits Pease Tradeport with EPA administrator

Lawmakers are touting an effort to designate two so-called forever chemicals as hazardous by law.

Doing so would make it easier for the Environmental Protection Agency to track per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, and require clean-ups.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and EPA Region 1 administrator David Cash on Friday toured Pease International Tradeport, where PFAS chemicals have been found in the past.

The two looked at the base's interim mitigation system, which is a pump and treatment system installed around a well that removes contaminated water from the aquifer, treats it and injects it back into the system.

Thousands of people, including children at a day care facility, were exposed to PFAS on the former military base. It was discovered in 2014 that water in the well was contaminated by firefighting foam used at the base.

Since then, Shaheen said she has led efforts in Congress to reveal possible health effects related to PFAS contamination.

"There has been a wonderful partnership here between the city and between the Air Force, the state Environmental Services Department, and the Environmental Protection Agency to address PFAS," Shaheen said. "And it really means that Portsmouth is on the cutting edge in terms of looking at how to do the treatment and getting it cleaned up, because it is critical to everybody to have clean drinking water."

The EPA is hoping to label two of the most common PFAS chemicals — PFOA and PFOS — as hazardous under federal law. Shaheen said the designation would increase transparency around releases of the chemicals and help to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up their contamination.

The EPA is accepting comments on the proposal, Cash said in a written statement.