July 22, 2021

U.S. House passes PFAS Action Act

Cannon AFB courtesy photo: VIRIN: 101010-F-YG475-003.JPG

PFAS chemicals were used in firefighting foam in military bases across the country, including at Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases, until 2016.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 241-182 in favor of legislation that would regulate PFAS.

The PFAS Action Act would require federal regulators to establish national drinking water standards for per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances. The legislation would further designate PFAS as hazardous, thus allowing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up contaminated sites.

Additionally, the legislation would lead to at least two types of PFAS being classified as hazardous air pollutants and it would limit the introduction of new PFAS chemicals. The PFAS Action Act would also provide $200 million annually to assist water and wastewater utilities.

U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, a New Mexico Democrat, introduced  an amendment to the bill that was adopted that would create a standard limiting the amount of PFAS that can be found in water used for agricultural purposes. While urging lawmakers to adopt the amendment, she told the story of how the Highland Dairy near Clovis learned that its water had been contaminated by PFAS and how that has threatened the family-owned business.

“PFAS chemicals are life-threatening,” Leger Fernández said during her floor speech on Wednesday. “They are forever chemicals and need to be cleaned up.”

Related: USDA may buy cows from dairy farm contaminated with PFAS

She was one of several lawmakers who talked about how PFAS pollution has impacted communities within their districts.

The PFAS Action Act was sponsored by U.S. Representatives Debbie Dingell and Fred Upton, a Democrat and a Republican who both represent Michigan.

Upton said Michigan knows about water pollution and highlighted the lead in drinking water in Flint, Michigan, which received national attention.

“PFAS is bad too, really bad,” he said.

He told about Parchment, Michigan, where residents had to line up at churches and schools to get water that was safe for them to use after the drinking supplies were contaminated by PFAS chemicals. The city learned of the contamination in 2018 when tests found PFAS levels that were 20 times what the EPA considers safe.

The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate.