The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will no longer be regulating Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) chemicals in drinking water, chemicals which when consumed have been linked to cancer and other illnesses. The EPA is instead drafting the chemicals under the Superfund, which would force polluters into cleaning up the PFOA and PFOS chemicals. States are now being forced to step up and regulate their own water supply.
PFAS are chemicals which have been linked to illnesses like kidney cancer and other ailments. These chemicals were used in household appliances and fire retardant equipment in the past. Although these chemicals are no longer produced they are still present in the environment and in our bodies. According to State Impact Pennsylvania,“ in Pennsylvania, high levels of PFAS contamination have been found, among other places, in public and private water systems in the towns of Horsham, Warminster, and Warrington in Bucks and Montgomery Counties near two military bases where the chemicals were used in firefighting foam for decades.” In these places, local governments have stepped up and began to regulate their own water supply with granular activated carbon filters, which are best used to filter organic chemicals in water.
While being analyzed by advocacy groups studies found that “as many as 110 million Americans may be drinking water with levels of the chemical that could cause harm. The problem is particularly acute near military bases, more than 400 of which the Pentagon suspects to be contaminated with the chemicals.” These numbers are alarming and serve to prove that this problem needs to be solved nationally. The news that our nation’s heroes fighting to protect our country are the most at risk to a disease caused by these chemicals is also heartbreaking.
Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senator Bob Casey was highly disappointed in the lack of EPA regulation and disregard for the Safe Drinking Water Act which keeps Americans safe. According to State Impact Pennsylvania, Senator Casey said, “They need to set a standard so we can ensure that people are safe from what is in essence poison in the water, [..] So this is inexcusable. We cannot allow this to happen in Pennsylvania or any other state.”
Delaware’s U.S. Senator Tom Carper, however, was not surprised by the EPA’s move. Carper told State Impact Pennsylvania that “We are anxious to see a sense of urgency, a sense of commitment to getting to work on this, [..] It’s not a question of whether it’s harmful, the question is are they going to develop a clean drinking water standard.” He also claimed that unless Wheeler chooses to act to regulate the chemicals in the water and other climate-related issues, he will block his nomination as Permanent EPA Administrator. According to Politico, Wheeler responded by stating “I cannot make that commitment,” when asked by Senator Carper to regulate the chemicals in drinking water.
According to Whyy, Pennsylvania State Senator Marie Collett said in a statement, “The uncertainty and failure to act in Washington is exactly why our state legislators need to step up, [..] I will continue to support efforts at both the federal and state level to regulate these chemicals, and hope my fellow legislators will support me.” This issue has been bipartisan with both Democrat and Republican elected officials speaking out over the need for safe drinking water. U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick stated in Whyy, “If EPA refuses to do its job, Congress must intercede.”
The need for safe drinking water is blatant. With studies linking PFOA and PFOS chemicals to cancer and other diseases, serious regulations are needed for safety. I agree with Senators Casey, Carper, Collett and Representative Fitzpatrick who are actively advocating for federal regulation to safeguard their state’s water. I commend both Senator Collett, who will be introducing two pieces of legislation to help regulate the chemicals, and Rep. Fitzpatrick, who is the co-founder of a new bipartisan Congressional task force on curbing PFAS contamination.
We must push all of our elected officials to take this issue seriously. Safe drinking water is a bipartisan issue that all Americans need to get behind. Safe drinking water should not be a luxury, but a right.