On Monday, June 1st, New Jersey became one of the few states in the US to regulate two specific types of PFAS—Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluoroalkyl sulfonic acid (PFOS) —that are known to be cancer-causing chemicals that contaminate drinking water. The chemicals are often found in nonstick cookware, waterproof apparel, and firefighting foam and have been tied to cancers and immune system issues. New Hampshire, Vermont, and New Jersey are currently the only states that regulate PFOA and PFOS in drinking water systems. This step to better ensure the environmental safety of drinking water is one that needs to be instituted throughout other states. Read More
Finding a Safe Replacement for PFAS
PFAS is a forever chemical that is commonly used in flame retardants and fire fighting foams. The toxic chemical is known to cause hormonal changes, decrease fertility, weaken immune systems, and increase risks of cancer. States across the country have worked to ban the use of the chemical that is now found in all major U.S. bodies of water. Companies are working to find suitable replacement for the chemical in fire fighting foams with concern of substituting one hazardous pollutant for another. Read More.
Many studies have examined the effect of long term exposure to air pollution outside and the impact it could have on COVID-19 severity. While we are all in our homes, it might be time to examine the toxic household products that affect our immune systems. Synthetic chemicals and “forever chemicals” can be found in products around the house that children could be exposed to or enter into drinking water. Although removing these items from the house today will not change our risks to the coronavirus now, it could change how we respond to viruses in the future. Read More.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed the presence of “forever chemicals” in the drinking water on military bases. In a report released in February, the Pentagon revealed that over 600 military sites and surround communities could have drinking water contaminated by a “forever chemical,” including PFAS. As a part of the worst sites, the EWG examined the contamination at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, West Point Military Academy in New York and Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.
Although none of the sites exceed the EPA’s health advisory level for PFAS at 70 parts per trillion, some sites do exceed the lower levels set for “forever chemical” by certain states. Read More.
DuPont, a large contributor of PFAS production and contamination may have found a loophole to avoid assuming primary liability for PFAS cleanup and damage compensation. Beginning in 2015, the New Jersey company initiated transactions to The Chemours Company, Corteva Inc, and a new DuPont that would transition the responsibility of cleanup. However, these smaller companies do not have the funds to support the tens of billions of dollars needed to cover all damages. Read More.
Schools in New Hanover and Brunswick counties in North Carolina have set plans in motion to install a new water filtration system to protect school drinking water from industrial contamination. The plan comes after Brunswick county was determined to have the highest levels of PFAS water contamination in the country. Actor Mark Ruffalo, among others, spoke at a press conference at the North Carolina Legislative Building in Raleigh explaining that more needed to be done to address the water contamination problem and the health of children in schools. Read More.
In continuance with its action plan to regulate forever chemicals, including PFAS, the EPA has announced that it will be conduction criminal investigations against the cancer linked chemicals. The EPA has not elaborated on exactly who or what it will be investigating; however, some companies have released that they might be under investigation. Read More.
Although the EPA has voiced that matters concerning PFAS, a “forever” chemical, will continue to be a priority in 2020, over half the states in the country have decided to encourage their own regulations. Some states have preexisting rules preventing them from enforcing stricter water regulations above those set by the EPA. Other states, including Michigan and New York have surged forward to set stricter regulations and encourage more contamination cleanup efforts. Read More.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation will direct $120 million in grant money towards assisting Long Island and villages’ water plans. Included is the Village of Mineola that currently has three major water system projects underway to help meet 1,4-dioxin and PFAS treatment requirements. 23 total grants have been given out to Long Island and villages to assist in water remediation projects. Read More.
The federal house of representatives passed a bill that would designate certain types of PFAS “hazardous” under Superfund. (PFAS are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, man-made chemicals.) Many of our friends on capital hill sponsored this bill and voted in favor.
Trump has been very clear that he has no intentions of signing the bill if it was ever to get through the Senate and land on his desk. But what is the bill really about? It’s about what to do about this chemical that is showing up all across the country in drinking water. It is also a backdoor way to set a safe level or standard for PFAS in drinking water and for the Superfund program to cleanup and hold accountable those who are responsible for the pollution.
As this idea was being described to me by congressional staff this past summer, I just scratched my head. The Superfund program HAS NO MONEY. In fact, there are 34 unfunded Superfund sites that are shovel ready that can’t afford a shovel. This is the largest number of unfunded shovel ready sites, meaning everything is ready to begin cleanup, in decades if not longer.
The recent bill authorizes $800 million to fund infrastructure upgrades that reduce PFAS exposure and to local entities for cleanups. Again, I just scratch my head. Does Congress really think that amount of money is enough to clean up all the PFSA contaminated lands, water and dumpsites? There are thousands of places where towns, cities and states are concerned about this chemical impacting people’s drinking water.
How exactly does this bill work with the 1,3000 plus Superfund sites, some that have waited for decades to get testing or clean up plans. Trump gave Superfund in his EPA budget $2,878 million for the entire program why does congress think he would be willing to give PFAS $800 million?
Is this legislation about dumping a serious public health problem into a deep hole (Superfund) so no one can be held responsible? The Superfund program should be used to cleanup the country’s most dangerous sites, not serve as a dumping ground for serious complicated problems Congress can’t or doesn’t want to deal with.
By Lois Marie Gibbs, Founder of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice