‘It’s the government’s job to protect people’: States are finally stars

In Hawaii, lawmakers passed a ban on PFAS in food packaging and fire-fighting foam earlier this year. State Rep. Nicole Lowen, a Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, said it was backed by research that showed alternative products already exist on the market, adding that “the writing is on the wall. ” for other categories of PFAS. it would be the politically easiest thing to move forward,” she said. “From all I’ve learned, unless there’s a need that can’t be replaced by whatever else we have, these should be phased out, period. .” Meanwhile, California passed laws this year to ban PFAS in cosmetics and textiles, while requiring companies to report data on other products containing PFAS.

Agency action

Some lawmakers have focused their efforts on empowering state regulators, rather than on specific products.

In Washington, lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year that will allow the state Department of Ecology to issue PFAS regulations within three years, instead of the 2030 deadline set by the regulatory framework. former. This agency, which will have the power to ban PFAS in certain products, is expected to act by 2025, giving Washington the fastest timeline in the nation to phase out PFAS.

“It’s the government’s job to protect people,” said state Rep. Liz Berry, a Democrat who sponsored the bill. “[The agency] has already done a lot of homework. It’s just a matter of pulling the trigger.

In some states, agency officials have led the response to PFAS contamination. In Michigan, for example, regulators have developed rules in recent years for levels of certain PFAS compounds in drinking water, groundwater, and surface water. The state has also brought together seven state agencies to form Michigan’s PFAS Action Response Team, known as MPART, which serves as the coordinating group for testing, cleanup and repair efforts. public education. The state conducted extensive testing to identify contaminated sites.

“The biggest public health threat is to water quality,” said Abigail Hendershott, executive director of MPART. “If we have a source [of contamination]we’re going to find it in groundwater, so that’s the easiest way to define and initiate those compliance actions. »

Now that it’s more familiar with water testing and regulation, the state could turn its attention to consumer products, she said.

[Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

To clean

Banning products and implementing regulations can help prevent future contamination. But states still have a lot of work to do to address the chemicals forever found in their water, soil and people.

Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers passed a bill requiring the state Department of Environmental Protection to set rules by 2025 for target cleanup levels of PFAS if the EPA doesn’t. haven’t established a national standard by then. State Rep. Toby Overdorf, a Republican who co-sponsored the bill, said his community in Stuart, Florida has wells contaminated with PFAS. He noted the massive expenditure to clean contaminated water systems.

“There will be state, federal and local funding that will have to come into play to solve the problem,” he said. “We’re going to educate municipalities and let them know that they need to come up with a plan to take it over so they can provide clean drinking water.”

New Hampshire set aside $25 million earlier this year to bolster a loan fund for PFAS remediation of public water supply systems and wastewater treatment facilities. And Vermont lawmakers have given residents the right to sue chemical companies for medical surveillance costs if they’ve been exposed to PFAS.

Meanwhile, 15 state attorneys general have separately sued companies allegedly responsible for the PFAS contamination, seeking damages for pollution damage. Minnesota settled with 3M Company, which produced nonstick chemicals that polluted groundwater in the Twin Cities area, for $850 million in 2018. Delaware also reached a settlement, but the other lawsuits are still pending. In progress.

“It costs tens of millions of dollars to remove PFAS from water and sewer facilities,” said Jon Groveman, director of water policy and programs at the Vermont Research and Advocacy Group. Natural Resources Council. “It will come either from the taxpayers or from the citizens who pay the water and sewer bills. AGs say, “No, that’s not fair.”

Vermont recently passed a law creating a legal cause of action against manufacturers of hazardous materials who cause damage, without the need to prove negligence. Other states seeking to prosecute PFAS makers could pursue similar legislation, Groveman said.

But some industry leaders think it’s unfair to hold PFAS manufacturers accountable for every case of contamination.

“It was not the person who made it that caused the spill or the leak, it was the person on whose property the leak occurred,” said Scott Manley, executive vice president of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, a pro-business lobbying association.

The group opposes a lawsuit filed by Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, both Democrats, seeking nearly $1 billion from 18 companies, according to state leaders, who don’t failed to protect the public.

Manley noted that his group has supported efforts to create a grant funding program to help local governments deal with PFAS hotspots.

But in some states, leaders prefer to see polluters rather than taxpayers pay for the cleanup.

“These chemicals are very difficult to clean up and they’re very expensive,” said Minnesota State Rep. Ami Wazlawik, a Democrat who sponsored a bill banning PFAS in food packaging. “Minnesota taxpayers are not responsible for putting these chemicals out there.”

This was first published on Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Read the original here.

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