May 06, 2022

Gillibrand And Pappas Introduce Legislation To Stop Polluters From Contaminating Waterways With Toxic Levels Of PFAS

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Chris Pappas (D-NH) announced their plan to introduce the bicameral Clean Water Standards for PFAS 2.0 Act, which would further regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by setting deadlines for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop water quality criteria and limits on industrial PFAS discharges into water and to water treatment plants.

Joined by Newburgh City Manager Todd Venning, New York State Senator James Skoufis, New York State Assemblyman Jonathon Jacobson, and Riverkeeper Co-Director of Science and Patrol Dan Shapley, Senator Gillibrand outlined how the Clean Water Standards for PFAS 2.0 Act would require EPA to develop water quality criteria for all measurable PFAS or classes of PFAS, and develop effluent limitations guidelines and standards for all measurable PFAS or classes of PFAS. This updated legislation sets deadlines for these criteria and limits within the next few years, in accordance with the EPA PFAS Roadmap.

This includes establishing pretreatment standards, which are a type of effluent limitations guideline and standard, to prevent the introduction of PFAS into publicly-owned water treatment facilities, therefore helping stop PFAS at the source before it gets into the municipal water system.

“It is unacceptable that not just across New York State, but in every state across the country, communities have had their water supplies needlessly polluted by toxic PFAS chemicals,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud to introduce the Clean Water Standards for PFAS 2.0 Act along with Representative Pappas, which would help prevent polluters from contaminating our waterways and improve access to clean, safe drinking water for everyone, regardless of zip code.”

“The dangers posed by forever chemicals such as PFAS is one of the most pressing environmental and public health issues facing us today,” said Congressman Chris Pappas. “Despite knowing about the dangers they’ve posed since at least 1998, the EPA has still failed to take meaningful action to keep these toxic, ‘forever chemicals’ out of our water. No industry should be given a free pass to poison our water, and no family should ever have to wonder whether their drinking water is safe when they turn on the tap. The Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act will finally take action to hold polluters accountable, establish proactive limits for PFAS, set water quality criteria, and support communities with contaminated water. I am proud to re-introduce this legislation today, and will keep fighting to protect our water until it is enacted into law.”

"I am grateful to Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues for taking up this critical measure to regulate 'forever chemicals' on the federal level,” said New York State Senator James Skoufis. My constituents here in Newburgh, and in countless communities across the country, have unknowingly suffered the life-altering effects of extended PFAS/PFOA exposure, and lawmakers must act to hold corporate contaminators accountable while protecting the most vulnerable among us. The Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act will serve as another level of protection in the fight against drinking water toxicity, and is a welcome complement to my Emerging Contaminants legislation, signed into state law this year."

“The health risks posed by PFAS contamination in our nation’s waterways to communities across the country are well documented, and we are grateful for this announcement to reintroduce critical legislation to stop contamination at its source," said Earthjustice Legislative Counsel Christine Santillana. "By establishing effluent standards for PFAS for several industries, we can hold polluters accountable and protect communities from dangerous contamination. We applaud Senator Gillibrand and Representative Pappas for their leadership and plans to reintroduce this bill to protect families and our waterways from PFAS.” 

“Industries shouldn’t be able to dump as much PFAS as they like into nearby rivers, streams, and lakes, putting the health of their neighbors at risk,” said Melanie Benesh, Legislative Attorney at the Environmental Working Group. “The Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act is a critical piece of legislation that will ensure that the EPA acts quickly to turn off the tap on some of the most notorious PFAS polluting industries,”

The bill includes nine priority industry categories to further expand on current EPA standards. These priority industry categories include: Organic Chemicals, Plastics and Synthetic Fibers (OCPSF); pulp, paper, and paperboard; textile mills; electroplating; metal finishing; leather tanning and finishing; paint formulating; electrical and electrical components; and plastics molding and forming.

The bill would also authorize $200 million per year in grants to assist Publicly Owned Treatment Works with program implementation, which would be appropriated through Fiscal Years 2022-2026.