By Peter Chawaga
Vermont’s senate has passed a bill that sets a stricter standard for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination in drinking water. As one of many states mulling a legislative solution to removing the contaminant, it is setting a precedent for local drinking water treatment operations.
“The legislation, S.49, would require managers of public water supplies to test to ensure levels of five PFAS — PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFHpA and PFNA — are below a combined 20 parts per trillion, which is the state’s health advisory,” per VT Digger. “If elevated levels are found, drinking supply managers would have to treat water to lower levels and provide residents with clean drinking water until the public supply is safe.”
PFAS have found their way into water supplies around the country, often stemming from industrial processes. Exposure has been linked to cancer, liver damage, and other adverse health consequences. While the U.S. EPA does have health advisories for PFOA and PFOS set at 70 parts per trillion, there are no federal regulations requiring the treatment of PFAS and Vermont is among a handful of states looking to implement that regulatory action on their own.
Vermont may be a natural leader in battling PFAS as it experienced one of the country’s most significant PFAS health scares a few years ago.
“In 2016, the state discovered that perfluorooctanoic acid from ChemFab manufacturing plant had contaminated drinking water for hundreds of residents in Bennington,” according to VT Digger. “The state has been working since then to address the Bennington area contamination — including reaching a settlement with the plant’s current owner Saint Gobain requiring them to pay to provide clean water for residents.”
And, unlike other states dealing with PFAS contamination, Vermont has the opportunity to set its own maximum contaminant levels at stricter standards than the federal policy.
“Vermont is lucky to have the authority to regulate PFAS as a hazardous substance to set these limits,” E&E News reported. “Other states, like Arizona, can set guidelines only as strict as the federal health advisory.”
While the new legislation would put a burden on regulators and drinking water treatment operations to significantly lower the presence of PFAS in drinking water, it appears to be a popular idea in lieu of federal action.
“With the federal government dragging its feet, it’s up to Vermont to take action to protect communities from toxic PFAS chemicals,” Jen Duggan, the vice president and director of Vermont’s Conservation Law Foundation, told VT Digger. “The Senate has demonstrated that we are up to the task. This bill is a significant step forward to protect our drinking water from these dangerous forever chemicals.”
To read more about how local lawmakers are dealing with PFAS contamination, visit Water Online’s Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.