House committee holds hearing on PFAS contamination and need for corporate accountability

July 25, 2019

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on July 24 to examine the history of the science behind the health risks associated with PFAS, and what corporations knew and when they knew it.

In the hearing, “The Devil They Knew — PFAS Contamination and the Need for Corporate Accountability,” state officials, scientists, and affected individuals fielded a range of questions from the subcommittee. No representation from a corporation with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their products was present at the hearing other than Glen Evers, president of IS2 Consulting and a former research scientist at DuPont.

However, chairman Harley Rouda (D-California) submitted the Environmental Working Group’s statement that includes information on DuPont and 3M Co.’s knowledge of PFAS. Rouda said he will make sure these two companies provide answers to the public.

Rouda also referenced a bill he introduced on May 8, H.R. 2570: PFAS User Fee Act of 2019. The bill would establish fees for the manufacture of PFAS. The amount of the fees would total $2 billion each year. A PFAS Treatment Trust Fund would be created from the fees collected to pay for ongoing water treatment costs associated with contamination from PFAS and other purposes.

Officials from Michigan, New Hampshire, and New Jersey shared what their respective states are doing to address PFAS. Representing Michigan was Steve Sliver, PFAS executive lead for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, who took part in Water Well Journal®’s PFAS Roundtable in its April issue.

Unsure of when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will set maximum contaminant levels for PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate), Sliver shared that Michigan is looking at regulating seven PFAS chemicals. The state has begun its rulemaking process and is expected to have draft rules established in October.

Financial assistance needed from the federal government for small community water systems to address PFAS was stressed by Catherine McCabe, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. She said it is especially needed in northeastern states that use state revolving funds to treat lead.

McCabe also stated a need for the federal government to apply the Toxic Substances Control Act to direct chemical companies to complete research and studies on the manufacturing of its chemicals before they’re allowed into the marketplace.

Regarding healthcare, Jamie DeWitt, Ph.D., of the Pharmacology and Toxicology Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, shared the need to educate physicians about PFAS and how they might affect their patients. Part of the challenge, DeWitt said, was there are currently no clinical labs that can routinely do a blood test for PFAS.

Click here to watch the hearing.