Congress needs to pass legislation that both provides money for cleanup and gives federal regulators the power to crack down on polluters who release so-called “forever chemicals” into the environment, U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., said Tuesday.
“We need some policy changes and some additional regulation to allow EPA to go after polluters,” Pappas said. “We also need to make investments in upgrading our water treatment systems to make sure we are providing people clean water.”
The 1st District congressman hosted an online dialogue with environmental activists on the eve of a House debate on Wednesday on the most aggressive legislation dealing with per- and polyfluoroalkyl contaminants.
Under the legislation known as the PFAS Action Act of 2021, PFOA and PFOS — the two most researched PFAS — would be promptly regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. They would also be designated as hazardous substances under federal Superfund law.
Pappas said the bill also includes his provision for a grants program to help publicly-owned treatment systems remove these chemicals from drinking water sources.
It also would require the Environmental Protection Agency to create within two years a clean-water standard for PFOA and PFOS and to designate them as hazardous air pollutants within six months, Pappas said.
“This is a bipartisan issue that is affecting all 50 states in this country,” Pappas said.
The federal infrastructure bill pending in the Senate would include money to help states and communities deal with PFAS contamination, he said.
State Rep. Rosemarie Rung, D-Merrimack, urged Pappas to make sure the reforms give regulators the power to go after offshoots of these substances.
“We need to regulate these as a class or otherwise we find ourselves in this game of whack-a-mole where industry keeps creating other molecules,” Rung said.
While the legislation has bipartisan support, some Republicans have balked at what they view as a “total PFAS ban” and say it could harm private industry.
The House passed some of the provisions in legislation last year, but that effort stalled in the U.S. Senate after then-President Donald Trump threatened to veto it.
Mindi Messner of Rye, an environmental consultant and former state legislator, said classifying PFAS as hazardous waste will speed up the cleanup of contamination at federal Superfund sites such as the Coakley Landfill on the Seacoast.