The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill that would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish national drinking water standards for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
As reported by The Hill, the PFAS Action Act of 2021 passed the lower chamber with bipartisan support, 241-183.
The legislation, introduced by Michigan Reps. Debbie Dingell and Fred Upton, would demand that the EPA regulate the most common PFAS—PFOA and PFOS—within two years of enactment, as well as designate these two compounds as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund law within a year.
To date, the EPA has only established “health advisory levels” for PFAS compounds.
“Nearly every American has PFAS coursing through their blood,” Dingell said, during a debate on the House floor prior to the July 21 vote. Her co-sponsor, Upton, recalled a 2014 lead contamination tragedy in Flint, Michigan, stressing that his state knows “a little bit about water contamination.”
“PFAS is bad too — really bad,” Upton said. “And EPA has been slow at the switch.”
The bill would give the EPA five years both to determine whether all PFAS should be designated as hazardous and to submit a review of the agency’s PFAS cleanup efforts. The EPA would also have 180 days to add PFOA and PFOS to the Clean Air Act’s hazardous pollutants list and would need to develop effluent limits for PFAS under the Clean Water Act.
The EPA administrator would need to mandate “comprehensive toxicity testing” on all PFAS by sorting compounds into tiered categories and adjusting testing accordingly. A final rule on testing would occur within two years.
The bill would limit industrial discharges of PFAS and allocate $200 million annually from 2022 to 2026 for wastewater treatment, as well as restrict incineration of PFAS wastes. The agency would make PFAS-free labels available for relevant products, while establishing a household well water testing website that clearly communicates public health risks.
“This approach puts the focus on following the science, by tailoring testing to relevant subgroups of PFAS and focusing regulation on the riskiest chemicals,” said Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey.