PFAS measures included in Defense bill approved by U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON (WTAP) - Measures aimed at establishing a national drinking-water standard for PFAS chemicals were included in the National Defense Authorization Act approved by the U.S. Senate on Thursday.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., helped sponsor the PFAS measures.

“PFAS pollution has created significant public health challenges across the country, and it’s time that we formulated a commonsense, yet effective, national response,” Capito said. “As the Environmental Protection Agency has moved slowly with its own efforts to address PFAS concerns, this measure will help us take responsible and measured legislative action to protect the health of Americans across the country, as well as the environment. This is an important step in laying the foundation for a PFAS response, and I will continue leading the way toward a broader PFAS strategy.”

If enacted, the legislation would also require industrial manufacturers and users to notify the public when PFAS chemicals are released into the environment.

It also would provide a clear process for the Environmental Protection Agency to identify and share with the public and policymakers sources of PFAS emissions, while respecting the formal rulemaking processes and scientific approach, according to a news release from Capito’s office.

Among other things, the legislation includes measures that would set a national primary drinking water regulation for PFAS based at a minimum on PFOA and PFOS under the Safe Drinking Water Act; provide financial assistance to rural systems to reduce PFAS in drinking water; and ensure that the EPA continues to monitor and decide whether to regulate additional PFAS chemicals.

It also would issue a data call to PFAS manufacturers under the Toxic Substances Control Act to obtain information about which PFAS chemicals were historically manufactured and sold; finalize its 2015 proposed Significant New Use Rule on long-chain PFAS under the Toxic Substances Control Act; require the EPA to issue guidance on how to dispose of and destroy PFAS; and provide funding for research, require new monitoring and sampling and require better interagency coordination on PFAS chemicals.

Capito and others wanted a provision in the bill that would have designated PFAS as hazardous substances under the Superfund law, but that was left out of the final version approved by the Senate.