Senate develops health study amendment

PARKERSBURG — The first-ever nationwide study of the health impact from exposure into perfluorinated chemicals would be required under an amendment to the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act that passed the upper chamber on Monday.

The amendment proposed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., would authorize the Defense Department to finance the study.

“That’s exactly what we’re trying to get done,” said Dr. Paul Brooks of Brookmar, which organized and conducted a health study for the science panel created by the settlement of the C8 lawsuits against DuPont in Wood County. The panel, studying the data gleaned from about 70,000 residents in the Mid-Ohio Valley, determined a possible link between C8, or PFOA, and six diseases in humans.

C8 was once used at the Washington Works to make Teflon. Another compound, called GenX, that succeeded C8, is of the same family of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, called PFAS.

Information about the amendment made its way to Brooks late Wednesday. Another amendment reported on Thursday was about a provision funding the environmental remediation and restoration for communities near military bases where water supplies have been affected by PFAS. PFAS is used in firefighting foams.

Among the hundreds of communities across the country affected is the city of Martinsburg in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia where the city is installing a carbon-filtration system to remove PFOA contamination. The Air Force in March said it would “pause” $10 million financing of the installation.

Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was a cosponsor of the amendment by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

According to Shaheen, the national study will be conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Robert Bilott, a lawyer in the federal C8 cases against DuPont, this month asked the agency for a study into the impact of PFAS and said a suit forcing the agency to conduct the study could be filed on behalf of Brooks or Jeffrey Hermes of Burlington, Ky., a firefighter.

The act now goes to a House-Senate Conference Committee. The House passed its version this summer.

Communities in the state of New Hampshire have been affected by PFOA contamination. State officials in 2016 asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to expedite its release of a new C8 health advisory standard.

“This bill contains a number of measures to help our communities, including my bipartisan amendment to authorize the Department of Defense to fund a health study on PFOA contaminant, which has polluted water supplies across the nation, and among them, the Haven Well at Pease International Tradeport,” Shaheen said. “The affected communities in New Hampshire have been fighting tirelessly for answers about the risks from exposure to perfluorinated chemicals in their drinking water. They deserve answers, and this measure will help do just that.”

The Agency for Toxic Substances is among the most powerful of federal agencies, Brooks said. It can require other agencies to comply with its findings, he said.

If it declares something needs cleaned, the companies responsible have to do it, he said.

“And there’s no come back,’ Brooks said.

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