House hearing on PFAS continues trend of congressional interest in topic

September 7, 2018

Shortly after returning from August recess, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing to examine the federal government’s response to perfluorinated compounds in the environment.

Members of the committee were united in their concerns over whether contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) was being adequately addressed by federal agencies. A webcast of the hearing on September 6 can be viewed here.

The subcommittee heard testimony from Dr. Peter Grevatt, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, and Maureen Sullivan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment of the U.S. Department of Defense.

During the hearing, Grevatt provided updates on the timing of critical components in the EPA’s proposal action plan, noting the PFAS National Management Plan is still on track for release by the end of 2018.

Within the plan, the EPA would like to include whether a regulatory determination will be made for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), and whether a hazardous substance designation will be given to PFOA and PFOS. Grevatt also told the subcommittee to expect draft toxicity values for GenX, a man-made compound that manufacturing facilities have been known to discharge into the environment, and perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS) to be released in the coming weeks.

Sullivan told the members of Congress that despite risks, military specifications will still require use of aqueous film-forming foams containing fluorine, a perfluorinated compound, until a viable alternative is found.

A panel during the hearing heard testimony from state representatives representing drinking water administrators and solid waste management officials. Representatives from Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina testified.

NGWA submitted a letter for the record, outlining priorities for addressing PFAS contamination, including resources for private well owners, the importance of a consistent, enforceable federal standard, and financial assistance for the testing and treatment of water.

Interest in PFAS continues on the other side of Capitol Hill as well. Bipartisan legislation led by Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters was recently introduced. S. 3381, the PFAS Accountability Act, would set clear deadlines and requirements for cleaning up PFAS contamination, and S. 3382, the PFAS Detection Act, would require the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct nationwide sampling for PFAS.

A hearing on PFAS in the Senate is scheduled for September 26.

For more information on PFAS, visit NGWA’s PFAS Resource Center.