Legislation aims to remove polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from drinking water

Democratic Rep. Jared Golden voted this month to pass legislation that would remove “forever chemicals” or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from drinking water, saying no one in Maine “should have to worry about dangerous chemicals in their air, land, or water.”

PFAS chemicals are often used in food packaging and non-stick cookware as well as other consumer products. The chemicals are also known as “forever chemicals” because they take a long time to break down in the environment.  Studies suggest that PFAS chemicals can be linked to health issues like liver, kidney, reproductive and developmental problems among others. 

The new legislation will help to remove PFAS chemicals from drinking water, put an end to the production of the chemicals, and provides for additional federal funding to the removal process. 

According to the Maine PFAS Task Force there have been over 30,000 instances of PFAS contamination reported in Maine at 245 sites. 

PFAS was first discovered in the groundwater at former military installations in Maine. According to the Task Force’s January 2020 report, officials didn’t realize the contamination was be more widespread until PFAS was discovered in the Wells Water District supply well. This realization led to discovery of PFAS contamination in a nearby dairy farm well. 

 “Folks in our state have been harmed by ‘forever chemicals’ for years now. Maine is taking decisive action to protect our citizens but the federal government has repeatedly failed to do its part. That would change with the legislation we passed today. This bill will attack the PFAS problem at its sources, while also providing funds to clean up sites that have already been contaminated,” Golden said in a statement.

PFAS chemicals can also be found in firefighting foam. The foam was effective at putting out fuel fires and was used in the past by both military and civilian firefighters, but it must be phased out of fire departments nationwide by the year 2024. 

“Firefighters and other first responders already face down danger every day to keep us safe,” Golden said in a statement. “The last thing they need is to be put at risk by their own tools, such as PFAS in firefighting foam. This bill includes important measures to protect first responders from PFAS and my amendment will help make sure that, in the long term, these measures are effective at keeping firefighters safe.”

Golden was also able to add an amendment to the legislation that would ensure provisions to protect firefighters and other first responders from PFAS exposure in the long term. The amendment requires an annual report from the EPA and Fire Administration to be given to Congress with recommendations on how to reduce first responders risk in the future.