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Shaheen, Portman Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Boost EPA Response to PFAS & Empower Local Communities to Protect Drinking Water Supplies from Harmful Contaminants

**Shaheen-Portman Legislation Comes on the Heels of the EPA’s Proposal to Weaken Cleanup Standards for Groundwater Pollution Caused by PFAS** 

**Shaheen Has Led Efforts in Congress to Uncover Potential Health Effects Related to PFAS Contamination** 

** Legislation Provides Federal Resources and Support to States Like New Hampshire and Ohio that are Dealing with Drinking Water Contamination**

(Washington, DC) — U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to improve federal efforts to identify the public health effects of emerging contaminants such as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act would address barriers that limit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) response to emerging contaminants. The bill also expedites analysis of these chemicals and provides support and resources to states dealing with the health challenges posed by these potentially harmful materials.

PFAS chemicals have emerged as a widespread contaminant in drinking water sources in several communities across the nation, including New Hampshire and Ohio. While the risks associated with PFAS exposure are still being uncovered, studies have linked these unregulated emerging contaminants to a number of adverse health effects.

“No parent in this country should ever be in a position where they have to worry about the safety of their children’s drinking water. Unfortunately, that is an alarming reality that too many families are forced to endure,” said Shaheen. “PFAS contamination has impacted our communities in New Hampshire and many more across the country – it is a national concern that requires a strong federal response, which is precisely what my bipartisan bill will do. Ensuring transparency and accountability at every level of government to keep our water supplies clean is a bipartisan priority, and I’m glad to have Senator Portman’s help on this important cause. I encourage Senators on both sides of the aisle to join us in this effort.” 

“The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act will improve federal efforts to identify the health impacts of unregulated contaminants found in our drinking water sources, such as cyanotoxins, which contribute to the harmful algal blooms found on Lake Erie and in water bodies throughout Ohio,” said Portman.  “This legislation will help the federal government more efficiently and effectively analyze the impacts of, and respond to, emerging contaminants through greater coordination among federal agencies, and will provide states with the resources they need to monitor, test, and respond to potential risks posed by emerging contaminants. We must ensure that our drinking water remains safe for all Ohioans, and this legislation will help do just that.”

Andrea Amico of Portsmouth, New Hampshire co-founded Testing for Pease, a community group advocating on behalf of the families in Portsmouth who have been affected by PFAS water contamination. “This legislation will benefit so many Americans facing PFAS exposure,” said Amico. “Communities need a consistent and coordinated approach from the federal government to tackle the growing PFAS issues we are facing. Communities are suffering and need strong leadership from our government to bring meaningful action and change to prevent ongoing exposure to PFAS and to better understand the long-term impacts of PFAS. I am so grateful for Senator Shaheen's continued leadership, dedication, and commitment to bringing action surrounding PFAS to help communities that face the stress, challenges, and concerns of this complex public health and environmental issue.”

Shaheen successfully included portions of the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act in federal funding legislation signed into law for fiscal year 2018 that helps identify research gaps to address the potential health implications associated with exposure to emerging contaminants. With the reintroduction of this bipartisan bill, Shaheen and Portman build off that work by establishing a national strategy to coordinate the federal response to emerging contaminants, and provide assistance to states in responding to these materials. Specifically, their legislation would:

  • Direct the EPA to create a program to provide federal support and technical assistance to communities that have detected emerging contaminants in their water supply.
  • Establish and maintain a comprehensive database of resources to assist states and water stakeholders with testing for emerging contaminants. 
  • Direct the EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services to convene an interagency working group to improve Federal efforts to identify and respond to emerging contaminants.
  • Direct the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop an interagency federal research strategy to improve the identification, analysis and treatment of emerging contaminants.

Senator Shaheen has spearheaded efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination. Shaheen successfully established the first-ever nationwide health study on the impacts of PFAS substances in drinking water. Because of the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation’s efforts, Pease (the site of the former Pease Air Force Base) will serve as the model site for the nationwide PFAS health study. In February, Senator Shaheen led a bipartisan letter with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) that called on the EPA to establish federal drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, to which the EPA responded that it “intends” to establish these standards. 

Additionally, earlier this year Shaheen joined Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to introduce the PFAS Action Act, which would mandate that the EPA within one year of enactment declare PFAS as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law, also known as CERCLA. In response to news reports last week that the Department of Defense pressured the EPA to weaken cleanup standards for pollution caused by PFAS, Shaheen doubled-down on her previous request for the department and agency to disclose relevant correspondence regarding the groundwater pollution guidelines for PFAS chemicals. 

Text of the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act can be found here and more information on the bill can be found here. The bill is supported by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the National Ground Water Association and the Water Quality Association.