Press Release

Gillibrand, Capito Announce New Bipartisan Legislation That Would Require The EPA To Set An Enforceable Standard For Toxic PFAS Chemicals In Drinking Water To Protect Public Health

May 15, 2019

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today announced new bipartisan legislation that would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish an enforceable standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act for per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water after years of inaction. PFAS are a group of thousands of manufactured chemicals that can seep into drinking water supplies and have contaminated communities in New York, West Virginia, and all across the country. These toxic chemicals have been linked to cancers and other serious health and developmental effects. A new report shows potentially 19 million Americans are using public water systems exposed to PFAS contamination, yet the EPA has not moved quickly enough to create regulatory standards to protect Americans from this serious health hazard.

Specifically, Gillibrand and Capito’s legislation would require EPA to set a Maximum Contaminant Level and Primary National Drinking Water Regulation for PFAS within two years of the bill becoming law. Maximum Contaminant Levels are health-based standards the EPA sets for drinking water quality to determine the legal limit of a contaminant that is permitted in public water systems. This bill would group all PFAS chemicals under one Maximum Contaminant Level.

“It is the EPA’s job to protect Americans from highly toxic chemicals like PFAS, but they have failed to do what is necessary to help ensure our families in New York and across the country are no longer exposed to dangerous levels of PFAS in their drinking water,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “This is a widespread crisis that is putting the health of millions of Americans at risk, and I’m proud to partner with Senator Capito on this bipartisan legislation to require the EPA to finally establish a clear national drinking water standard for PFAS and protect public health. Clean water is an essential right that all Americans deserve, and I urge my colleagues to join with me to quickly pass this legislation.”

“In recent years, a growing body of science has shown the harmful effects certain PFAS pollutants can have on individuals with prolonged exposure to them, and it’s important that we do what we can to address that risk—especially in the drinking water our communities rely on,” said Senator Capito, a leader on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. “By requiring EPA to set a national drinking water standard for PFAS, we can ensure West Virginians and others can have faith in their access to safe, clean drinking water and help protect the health and wellbeing of Americans across the country.”

Gillibrand has been one of the leaders in Senate fighting to protect communities exposed to PFAS chemicals. In March, Gillibrand grilled federal officials on the health risks of PFAS during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, citing the devastating health concerns for New York residents in communities contaminated with PFAS such as Hoosick Falls and those surrounding Stewart and Gabreski Air National Guard Bases. Gillibrand helped secure $10 million dollars in federal funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct a nationwide study on PFAS health effects and also helped secure $20 million for PFAS cleanup in the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense-Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Act to communities that have suffered from PFAS contamination as a result of activity from the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard. She also led the push demanding that the Trump Administration release the Department of Health and Human Services study it was trying to keep secret that revealed PFAS poses a danger to human health at lower levels than EPA was telling the public.

Earlier this year, Senator Capito joined with EPW Ranking Member Tom Carper to introduce bipartisan legislation that would mandate the EPA within one year of enactment declare PFAS as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law and also enable a requirement that polluters undertake or pay for remediation. As part of her ongoing efforts to address and prevent PFAS contamination, she has also worked to secure funding to remediate contamination in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

The full text of the legislation is available here.