MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Erie Times E-Edition Article-Put the state in the PFAS driver’s seat

Posted by M. C. on February 5, 2021

Two items of which we should take note as we are unlikely to see them again soon:

A left wing publication advocating state’s rights

A hint at who generates much of the nation’s pollution.

https://erietimes-pa-app.newsmemory.com/?publink=1443fb9e3

On the last day of the Donald Trump’s presidency, his Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would create drinking water limits for PFOS and PFOA, two of the toxic PFAS chemicals that have been linked to high cholesterol, immunodeficiencies, ulcerative colitis, reproductive issues and some cancers.

We hope this means that sometime during the Biden years we’ll finally see legal drinking water limits for these harmful substances.

At another time in our nation’s history, this news might have caused quite a stir. But on Jan. 19, 2021, it was mostly overlooked. Much of the nation was reeling from a Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol building, preparing to inaugurate President Joe Biden, hoping to finally move past voter fraud lawsuits, and following rollout of a game-changing COVID-19 vaccine.

That the focus was elsewhere on Jan. 19 is emblematic of efforts to address PFAS contamination over the last 12 months, particularly here in Pennsylvania, where it seems like the commonwealth accomplished little worth celebrating in 2020.

And while this news out of Washington seems promising, the last thing Pennsylvania ought to do now is sit back and say ‘Biden’s got this’. We don’t know what the EPA will come up with and these processes have a way of getting dragged out considerably or curtailed altogether.

Instead, we challenge Governor Tom Wolf, his PFAS Action Team and his Department of Environmental Protection to make it clear that it’s PA — and not the EPA — that’s taking the wheel, putting 2020 in the rearview, and driving the conversation on an issue that’s vitally important to tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians.

These so-called ‘forever chemicals’ were once used widely in non-stick pans, stain-resistant clothing, food packaging, and, importantly, in firefighting foams and in a number of industrial processes. The DEP’s list of PFAS-impacted areas includes the water supplies near Letterkenny Army Depot, Franklin County; Fort Indiantown Gap, Lebanon County; and Tobyhanna Army Depot, Monroe County.

But perhaps the commonwealth’s largest concentration of contaminated groundwater is along the border of Bucks and Montgomery counties, where PFOA and PFOS were detected in the drinking water of what ultimately turned out to be more than 70,000 residents near the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster and the Horsham Air National Guard Station.

In late 2018, Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order creating a PFAS Action Team which, among other goals, is working to establish a Maximum Contaminant Level for PFAS.

Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had previously set a ‘health advisory level’ of 70 parts per trillion for both PFOA and PFOS, the substances are still considered unregulated. The advisory is only a guidance and one that’s been criticized as not stringent enough.

The establishment of a drinking water standard would help protect residents and provide leverage to those whose water supplies exceed the limit and are seeking compensation or remediation.

According to the PFAS Action Team, a statewide sampling program is a ‘key component for the development of enforceable regulatory drinking water standards for PFAS.’

Yet that component stalled in 2020. At the outset, the team’s plan was to gather data from at least 360 public water systems located near potential PFAS hotspots. Collection began in June 2019 and the team said it planned to release test results to the public every three months until sampling wrapped up, probably in June 2020. But the team hasn’t published any results since December 2019, and that Dec. 5, 2019 press release is still the most recent item listed in the ‘What’s New’ section of the ‘

PFAS in Pennsylvania ‘ page of the DEP’s website.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic did set back sampling of sites temporarily but we are again collecting and analyzing samples,’ DEP community relations coordinator Virginia Cain said this week in an email.

Cain also noted that the DEP has contracted with Drexel University to study the toxicological impacts on human health.

‘The data will be used to move forward with proposing a Maximum Contaminant Level rulemaking,’ Cain said. ‘DEP is also finalizing cleanup standards for soil contaminated with PFAS chemicals.’

Here’s hoping that Pennsylvania finally gives impacted residents something to raise a glass to by the end of 2021.

Be seeing you

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