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Saturday, November 30, 2019

PFAS Contamination Legislation Advances

Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) updated the public on legislation to address PFAS contamination and exposure. Last week, Pallone’s Energy and Commerce Committee passed comprehensive legislation to protect Americans from PFAS and clean up waste sites. The legislation is critical to stopping the flow of these harmful chemicals into our environment, drinking water, cooking products and more. It also ensures that polluters pay for the cleanup of these sites. According to a report, there are 517 water systems in New Jersey that are contaminated with PFAS.

PFAS are persistent, toxic chemicals that last forever and spread through our water, air and soil. New Jersey has some of the highest levels of PFAS contamination in the country. Last week, the Energy and Commerce Committee took action to address this public health threat and growing problems associated with these hazardous substances. This comprehensive, bipartisan legislation now includes additional bills to protect Americans from PFAS and clean up waste sites. This legislation is critical to stopping the flow of these harmful chemicals into our environment, drinking water, and cooking products. I look forward to the full House voting on this bill soon,” Congressman Pallone said.

“We need to know more about the health effects of those PFAS chemicals that are now found in the bodies of everyone worldwide. There is evidence for a wide range of adverse health effects including liver damage, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, developmental problems, and some forms of cancer,” said Robert Laumbach, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Rutgers School of Public Health. “And we should be testing the health effects of replacement PFAS chemicals before we permit commercial uses.”

“Thanks to the leadership of Chairman Pallone, we are one step closer to historic PFAS legislation that will reduce ongoing PFAS releases and clean up legacy PFAS contamination. It’s time for Congress to finally address the growing PFAS contamination crisis,” Scott Faber, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at Environmental Working Group.

“We applaud Congressman Pallone for his aggressive legislative action on PFAS. PFAS is a ‘forever chemical’ that manufacturers have known will cause irreversible health harms to people and the environment,” Amy Goldsmith, NJ State Director, Clean Water Action. “Yet to this very day, they keep producing it, putting it in products and contaminating our body, water, air and land. Classifying PFAS as a hazardous substance under CERCLA, federal superfund, means there will be another way to hold polluters accountable for their wrongdoing. To prevent further harm, we need to remove PFAS from production and products not substitute one bad ‘forever chemical’ for another.”

PFAS contamination is a very serious issue, affecting communities nationwide. These are persistent chemicals that spread through our water, air, and soil. They are toxic – with studies showing increased cancers, immune impacts, and effects on growth, development, and fertility. And these chemicals are everywhere – in our environment and in our bodies, with new affected communities being discovered all the time.

Although chemical companies have known about the hazards of these chemicals for many years, we are still realizing the scope of contamination. It is increasingly clear that we will need to attack PFAS contamination with every tool we have, as quickly as we can.

The final comprehensive legislation that advanced out of the Committee addresses PFAS by:
Clarifying which PFAS are designated as hazardous substances under the federal Superfund program and setting a deadline for EPA to decide within five years whether or not to list the remaining PFAS under the program, either individually or in groups;
  • Requiring EPA to promulgate a test rule requiring health effects testing for all PFAS;
  • Requiring EPA to set a maximum contaminant level goal and promulgate a national primary drinking water regulation for total PFAS, including a requirement that any standard protect vulnerable populations (such as infants, children, and pregnant women);
  • Requiring manufacturers of PFAS chemicals to provide data to EPA on manufacturing volumes, byproducts, uses, and exposure;
  • Requiring EPA to issue interim guidance on safe disposal of various types of PFAS containing materials;
  • Directing EPA to issue guidance for firefighters and other first responders to minimize the use of foam and other firefighting materials containing PFAS and to minimize their health risk from PFAS exposure;
  • Providing funding to states to assist affected community water systems in paying for the capital costs of installing eligible PFAS treatment technologies;
  • Directing EPA to add all PFAS to the list of hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act;
  • Limiting the incineration of PFAS containing wastes to approved hazardous waste incinerators and ensuring that incineration meets emissions standards, including standards for Hydrogen Fluoride;
  • Allowing EPA to create a Safer Choice label for pots, pans, and cooking utensils that do not contain PFAS, in addition to allowing EPA to establish the PFAS-Free label outside of the Safer Choice program if the Administrator chooses to do so.
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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 jon@gelmans.com has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.
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