The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs convened two panels during a September 26 hearing on “The Federal Role in the Toxic PFAS Crisis.” The hearing contained testimony from representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Defense, the Government Accountability Office, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Several updates to actions taken by federal agencies that will help address existing PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination were provided:
- EPA’s Peter Grevatt, Ph.D., announced another public stakeholder meeting, tentatively scheduled for October 5 in Michigan
- Maureen Sullivan of DOD noted aqueous film-forming foams containing PFAS are no longer used in testing and training operations, only on active fires; development of an alternative not containing PFAS is underway but could take two to three years
- EPA reiterated its commitment to having a National PFAS Management Plan released for public comment by the end of 2018, noting adequate science is available to make a regulatory determination on PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate)
- Grevatt noted EPA has taken a class-based approach to regulating chemicals, following questions from senators about how long regulatory action could take
- Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., of NIEHS told the committee a DOD-funded health study on PFAS in drinking water is likely to take around five years before results could be released.
A second panel at the hearing heard from witnesses in communities dealing with PFAS contamination.
NGWA submitted a letter of record to the Senate committee and will continue to work with Congress and federal agencies to make sure adequate resources are made available for the testing and treatment of drinking water, particularly for private well owners. NGWA is also continuing to urge EPA to announce a maximum contaminant level for PFOA and PFOS, creating regulatory certainty across the country.
NGWA Government Affairs Director Lauren Schapker, who attended the hearing, noted she is pleased by the attention the Senate and House of Representatives are paying to the issue by holding hearings in recent weeks, and she hopes these hearings translate to legislative and regulatory action.
A recording of the Senate hearing can be viewed here.