Bipartisan PFAS Accountability Act Seeks to Involve Federal Agencies in Water Contamination Cleanup

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the Senate to hold federal agencies accountable for water contamination on federal property that seeps into local lands. The PFAS Accountability Act comes on the heels of a report showing that 19 million people in 43 states have been exposed to water contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The report from the non-profit Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University found that nearly every state is impacted by unhealthy drinking water linked to birth defects, cancers, and infertility. The report criticized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to address the nationwide problem, “leaving local communities and states to grapple with a complex problem rooted in the failure of the federal chemical regulatory system.”

Researchers found at least 610 contaminated locations ranging from public water systems and military bases to civilian airports, industrial plants, dumps, and firefighter training sites.

The PFAS Accountability Act sets clear deadlines and reporting requirements for cleaning up PFAS contamination at federal facilities and mandates greater transparency. It also calls upon federal facilities to expedite cooperative agreements with states to address the contamination. These agreements would commit the federal government to take specific actions and enable state and local government to be reimbursed for costs associated with addressing the contamination.

These requirements are also extended onto military bases and National Guard installations.

Federal agencies would be required to send a report to Congress if cooperative agreements are not made within a year of a state request for one.

The bill also allows the federal government to issue grants to state, local, and tribal governments to take action against contaminated water.

In a statement announcing the bill’s introduction, main sponsor Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) explained, “When the federal government is the cause of this groundwater contamination, local officials shouldn’t be responsible for cleaning up the mess. This legislation will hold federal agencies accountable and allow local officials to continue their work protecting public health and ensuring Wisconsin has clean drinking water.”

Lead cosponsors Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) echoed the importance of ensuring safe, clean drinking water for communities around the country.

Posted in From the Hill

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