PFAS News Roundup: Landmark EPA decision implements first nation-wide PFAS limit in drinking water

PFAS News Roundup: Landmark EPA decision implements first nation-wide PFAS limit in drinking water
April 11, 2024 Lisa John Rogers, Great Lakes Now

In Fayetteville, North Carolina on Wednesday, April 10, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the nation’s first ever drinking water standards for PFAS. Limits will be capped at the lowest possible limit, about 4 parts per trillion. The Biden-Harris Administration concurrently announced a $1 billion investment to update water treatment plants around the country.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan was joined by White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory for this landmark announcement. While there are thousands of different versions of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, only six of the known “chemical cousins” are included in this new regulation.

This came days after the Biden-Harris Administration also announced it will only work with government contractors who sell things like cleaning products and hand soaps, free of PFAS. This is to protect building occupants, custodial workers, federal employees while setting an example — as the U.S. federal government is the largest single buyer of goods and services in the world.

Meanwhile, an investigation at The Hill showed internal communications between EPA staffers and Congress members in 2019. EPA staffers warned about a vaguely written clause by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, in 2019. Staffers said the wording would make it so “polluters could hide their discharges under an exemption intended for chemicals released in small proportions.”

On April 1, a U.S. District Court in Charleston, South Carolina ruled that Minnesota chemical manufacturer 3M must start making payments this summer to various public drinking systems around the country. This is part of a multi-billion-dollar settlement over PFAS contamination via firefighter foam and other consumer products manufactured by 3M. Payouts will continue through 2036 and the amount is dependent on just how much contamination is found. The health department in Minnesota, the chemical giant’s own home state, says 22 water systems contain PFAS levels above new federal limits.

In Wisconsin, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers agree PFAS need to be addressed, but they cannot agree on exactly how. Gov. Tony Evers vetoed Republican-backed bill targeting PFAS chemicals, after months of deliberation. Gov. Evers was urged by many environmental groups to veto the Republican bill, saying its limits on DNR enforcement should be a deal-breaker. Meanwhile Wisconsin residents, like those in Peshtigo, suffer while their state government remains in a stalemate.

“I assumed the thyroid disease in my family was somehow hereditary,” said Peshtigo resident, Ruth Kowalski, in an interview with The Progressive Magazine. “But now I know it was because we all lived within the plume.”

The Illinois Pollution Control Board moved forward with amendments to its Ground Water Quality regulations, which according to state attorneys, Melissa S. Brown and Andrea M. Quade, would set some of the most stringent PFAS standards in the country. The Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board approved the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s proposal to amend the Land Recycling and Remediation Standards Act that will regulate cleanup for newer PFAS like Gen-X, PFBA, PFHxA, and PFBS.

Environmental groups in Indiana had concern over an Indiana bill that would change the definition of PFAS, citing it would be to the advantage of chemical companies. The bill was ultimately killed mid-March and now Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state of Indiana. The lawsuit is against more than 20 companies claiming they were aware of the health risks of PFAS.

According to the Great Lakes Echo: “Every fish studied recently in two southeast Michigan watersheds contained at least one of a family of toxic and persistent health-threatening chemicals.” Michigan lawmakers outline next steps after EPA announcement, which comes on the heals of warnings that if the state’s high court does not validate PFAS limits, it could pave the way for litigations that the state cannot afford. Meanwhile, residents of Oscoda are still dealing with the pervasive PFAS foam along their beaches on Lake Huron. With more support coming from community advocates, many are angered at the state and federal government’s delay in remediation.

A study at the University of Cincinnati revealed an alarming link between exposure to PFAS and delayed puberty in girls. This is concerning as many necessities like band aids, menstrual products, and makeup have been linked to higher exposure to PFAS, as well as its more well-known presence in drinking water.

More PFAS news, in case you missed it:

Featured image: Water fills a glass (Great Lakes Now Episode 1012)


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