PFAS Community Update 3-18-19

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Government Turns Attention to PFAS Contamination in Nation’s Food Supply

The U.S. government announced it would be broadening its focus on PFAS contamination to include the use of polluted water in agriculture.

The Department of Agriculture is teaming up with the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Defense to investigate PFAS contamination. This move appears to be at the direction of EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who has directed the agency’s Office of Research and Development to study the impacts of PFAS contaminated water on croplands.

Until now, the primary focus on PFAS contamination has centered on groundwater contamination affecting personal water supplies. However, scientists say that potential contamination of irrigation supplies and wells could impact milk, beef and other food products.

This news follows reports from February that a dairy farm in New Mexico would have to destroy tens of thousands of liters of milk and euthanize thousands of dairy cows due to severe PFAS contamination.

Senators Call for Review of EPA PFAS Action Plan

While the EPA’s long-awaited PFAS Action Plan outlined how the agency plans to confront the growing issue of PFAS contamination, many felt that the plan lacked concrete details and a specific timeline. U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and several colleagues recently sent letters to the EPA and other agencies requesting documents related to the interagency review of the PFAS Action Plan.

In the letter, Peters mentions that the plan does not commit to establishing a drinking water standard for PFAS, nor does it detail its guidelines for groundwater cleanup. Peters wants to perform a full review of the Action Plan, including examining all inter-agency communications related to the plan.

The High Cost of Cleanup

High costs may be slowing down cleanup efforts across the country, as witnesses testifying before a House panel warned that nationwide PFAS cleanup could cost in the tens of billions of dollars.

The House Oversight and Reform subcommittee hearing on PFAS chemicals was held on Wednesday, March 6 in an effort to urge the government to move more quickly on cleanup. Witnesses testified on a variety of topics, including the cost of cleanup.  Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA) who was chairing the House Oversight and Reform environment subcommittee told reporters after the hearing “it’s clear” the high costs were slowing any federal efforts to regulate and clean up the toxic chemicals.