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PA House of Repesentatives: Updating Environmental Standards for Drinking Water

MEMORANDUM

Posted: October 21, 2016 03:04 PM
From: Representative Thomas P. Murt
To: All House members
Subject: Updating Environmental Standards for Drinking Water
 

 

“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water.”
….Carl Sagan

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), through legislation, has the authority in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to set many environmental standards.  One such area of responsibility is the establishment of the acceptable standards of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in our drinking water.

At present, the standard (or highest levels) of PFOA and PFOS allowable in Commonwealth drinking water is set at 70 parts per trillion (ppt), in line with the EPA’s recently established health advisory level.  Many new questions have arisen as to what an acceptable benchmark of PFOA and PFOS should be.  Our neighbor, New Jersey, has a standard of 40 ppt, while Vermont has a standard of 10 ppt.  These standards may be set by the legislature.

Measurements of PFOA and PFOS have spiked in Eastern Montgomery County where contamination of public and private wells has occurred.  This contamination is a result of PFOA and PFOS chemicals which were used by U.S. Navy personnel at the Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove.  These chemicals are found in the fire suppression foam which was used by firefighters at the base in training or in extinguishing fires.  These chemicals have now leaked into local water supplies causing great alarm to local residents.  There are legitimate and reasonable concerns regarding this contamination as well as what the acceptable levels of PFOA and PFOS should be.

A great deal of research exists which suggests that higher levels of PFOA and PFOS contamination can have negative consequences upon public health and safety.  According to an assessment by the Environmental Directorate of the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) “PFOS is persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic to mammalian species” and it’s half-life in humans is years.  In June 2015 researchers Philippe Grandjean of the Harvard School of Public Health, and Richard Clapp of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, concluded that a safe level of PFOA in drinking water would be approximately 1 ppt.  The evidence indicates that PFOS and PFOA are carcinogens and immunotoxins.  Existing standards are based largely on outdated research and an assumption of short-term exposure.  State-of-the-art technology in the form of in-plant filtration and the use of carbon filters on wells can achieve the goal of lowering the levels of PFOS and PFOS, and other chemicals, in the short-term.  It is clearly time to lower the acceptable standard of PFOA and PFOS levels in drinking water in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

I will soon introduce legislation that lowers the acceptable levels of PFOA and PFOS in our drinking water in the Commonwealth of PA to 5 ppt.  This action will provide a higher level of protection for our constituents and will enhance public health and safety across the Commonwealth.  Please consider co-sponsoring this legislation.

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