Bill would force release of report on PFAS

WASHINGTON — An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Bill pending in the Senate would force the public release of a report on safe levels of perfluorinated chemicals, also known as PFAS, in drinking water.

The amendment by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., was cosponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and would compel the Department of Health and Human Services to publish the study. Portman and Brown were the latest to sign on to the amendment with Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Sen. Margaret Wood Hassan, D-N.H., Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. Gary C. Peters, D-Mich.

The PFAS family includes C8 and its successor GenX, used to make Teflon at the Washington Works in Wood County. A science panel created in a C8 lawsuit settlement determined there was a possible link between C8 and six diseases in humans, based on the health data from around 70,000 residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Among uses for the compounds are firefighting equipment and foams.

National news outlets have reported the Environmental Protection Agency has blocked the release of the study through the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the Department of Health and Human Services because of a public relations problem.

“Keeping information from people about the health and safety of their water is disgraceful,” Brown said. “The EPA and HHS must release this report immediately and work with local communities to make sure their water is safe.”

The amendment follows a letter 12 senators wrote this week to the administration demanding the release of the study. The letter, signed by Portman, Brown, Manchin and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said according to news reports the study indicates the level of exposure considered dangerous to human health is lower than previously understood.

“It is important to ensure EPA’s health advisories are up to date and reflect the best available science and information. I hope EPA and HHS release this report immediately to ensure that the men and women serving our country, as well as our communities supporting them, are drinking clean, safe water,” Portman said.

The National Defense Authorization Act is pending before the Senate and could pass as early as today. Thirty-six military facilities across the country have on-base drinking water contamination from PFAS chemicals that exceed the EPA’s safety levels, Brown and Portman said.

Among communities affected is Martinsburg, W.Va.