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PFAS Action Act in both houses of Congress supported by N.H. legislators

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Washington, D.C., March 25, 2019 | BY KEN LIEBESKIND

The bill requires the EPA to designate all PFAS as hazardous substances within one year of enactment. It also makes PFAS eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law and requires polluters to pay for remediation.

Rep. Annie Kuster said the bipartisan bill has a good chance of moving forward but fears proposed EPA budget cuts may threaten it. “Hopefully it doesn’t mean they don’t care about the quality of drinking water if we can pass it in the House and Senate in a bipartisan way,” she said.

The proposed budget for fiscal 2019 reduces EPA funding by over 23 percent, more than $2.5 billion.

Kuster is also critical of the EPA’s PFA Action Plan that doesn’t commit to establishing Maximum Contaminant levels for two PFAS at a specific date. “There’s no sense of urgency from the EPA, they’re dragging their feet,” she said.

Rep. Chris Pappas said, “The federal response has not been adequate. We need MCLs for PFAS compounds with the standards based on science.”

After its introduction in the House on Jan. 14, the bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Transportation and was referred to the subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials on Feb. 7.

The element of the bill that requires PFAS polluters to pay for remediation would have assisted New Hampshire with action against Saint-Gobain for its contamination of public water in the Merrimack area.

The company did come forward to report the contamination and ultimately paid to connect homes with polluted private wells to public water, but the response came after a delay that hindered local residents.

Kuster questioned Susan Bodine, an EPA administrator at a Congressional hearing on Feb. 26 and mentioned the Saint-Gobain situation before asking her if EPA’s PFAS Action Plan would require companies to remedy the situation regarding PFAS contamination. Bodine said the EPA is implementing such a plan but was unable to provide a timeline for enactment.

“I want to put on record the urgency on this issue to protect families across the county who care about their children and are drinking contaminated water from PFAS chemicals,” Kuster said.

Kuster released a statement after the Congressional hearing that said, “In New Hampshire, we’ve seen the damaging consequences of groundwater pollution, and I’m deeply concerned that the EPA’s failure to hold polluters and bad actors responsible will send a message to others that they can disregard environmental regulations.”

New Hampshire’s senators also support the PFAS Action Act. “This bipartisan, common-sense legislation will help improve accountability and provide Granite State families, and millions more across the nation, with the peace of mind they deserve,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

“As the nationwide PFAS health impact study moves forward to understand the potential health implication related to PFAS exposure, it’s important that Congress take additional steps to help communities address existing contamination,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan.

PFAS chemicals, which are used for consumer products and firefighting foam and present significant health hazards, including cancer, contaminate groundwater and were found at the Pease Air Force base in Portsmouth and the Saint-Gobain plant in Merrimack.

Tom Carper (D-Del), who leads the Environment and Public Works Committee, said, “On Feb. 14, EPA released its long-anticipated PFAS Action Plan, which included another commitment by EPA to make the designation for PFOA and PFOS, but did not identify the available statutory mechanism it would use, nor how long the designation process would take to complete. Clear and swift action from Congress to list PFAS as hazardous substances would advance the action already proposed by EPA, enabling the agency to protect human health and the environment in an expeditious manner.”