The US Senate has passed a defense bill requiring an increased response from the government to harmful chemicals that have leached into the water supply in at least 43 states.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has claimed that they will decide by the end of the year whether to regulate the chemicals that are so persistent in the environment they’ve been deemed “forever chemicals.” As firefighting operations, it is important to stay up on the latest industry news.
What’s Going On Here?
There is a class of chemicals known as PFAS, which have been linked to cancer and other health issues. The chemicals are used in a vast number of products, including firefighting foam, which the bill directs the military to terminate use of. Communities across the country are suffering devastating health effects from drinking water that ends up being contaminated by firefighting foam containing these highly toxic chemicals.
The bill pushes the Pentagon to finalize agreements with states for cleaning up PFAS contamination caused by the military largely through the use of firefighting foam. The military would have three years to phase out the use of the foam.
Other provisions would also force the EPA to consider barring new uses of PFAS and require PFAS manufacturers to share data on their production. The bill also included provisions to add PFAS to the list of contaminants tracked by a national water-quality monitoring network, require drinking-water utilities to test for PFAS chemicals, and require manufacturers to report, through the Toxic Release Inventory, air and water discharges of many PFAS chemicals.
Senator Tom Carper stated, “The provisions we secured in this legislation will improve both the federal government’s understanding of and response to PFAS contamination. The Department of Defense’s use of firefighting foam containing PFAS is a significant source of this contamination. The use of these chemicals in firefighting foam has undoubtedly saved lives, but the cruel irony is that those same life-saving chemicals can endanger lives when they wind up in a glass of drinking water.”
Environmental groups have greatly applauded the bill as an important first step in dealing with the growing PFAS problem. The first step to addressing this issue is knowing the source of PFAS pollution and understanding how far it has spread, which this legislation is in efforts for. There is still a long way in getting to the bottom of this crisis, but monitoring the pollution’s scope will jumpstart further progress.
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