Statement: Senators push agencies to act on toxic chemicals known as PFAS

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a source of widespread drinking water contamination.

Bart Johnsen-Harris, clean water advocate for Environment America, issued the following statement:

“While our federal agencies are standing by, Congress is taking a real bipartisan interest in tackling PFAS contamination in our drinking water. In states as far-flung as Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina, this urgent public health problem calls for urgent action.

“It’s good to see senators pushing for greater accountability from the administration. As Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) explained, anywhere the military uses firefighting foam, there is a risk of groundwater contamination. To stop further contamination and to clean up what’s already out there, we’ll need action from both military and environmental agencies.

“PFAS contamination poses serious threats to public health, endangering the drinking water of up to 110 million Americans. Against all reason, PFAS are still widespread in both production and use. We see them not only in the military’s firefighting foams, but everywhere from pizza boxes to water-repellent boots.

“Dr. Linda Birnbaum made clear in her testimony today: safeguarding against PFAS chemicals as a class is the best way to protect human health. In response to mounting pressure last month, the Environmental Protection Agency committed to begin establishing a drinking water standard for two of the best-known PFAS chemicals. While this is a step in the right direction, we need to be doing much more. Congress should act expeditiously to:

  1. Provide tools for cleanup by passing the bipartisan PFAS Action Act, which would make the entire class of chemicals eligible for cleanup under the Superfund program.
  2. Have EPA establish a drinking water standard for the entire class of PFAS chemicals. Research has shown that an approximate “safe” level of exposure is as low as 1 part per trillion—basically none. And...
  3. Pass legislation to halt the military’s continued use of toxic PFAS firefighting foams.

“Clean water is a basic human right. We’re looking forward to our legislators ensuring that no Americans have to worry about PFAS in their water.”