WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Rep. Madeleine Dean helped launch Congress’s new PFAS Task Force. The bipartisan Task Force will address drinking water contamination across the country.
“For years, constituents in my district – in towns like Horsham, Willow Grove, Upper Dublin and North Hills – have worried about the quality of their water and the impact on their health and the health of their families. Like citizens who live near military bases across the country, their water supplies have been tainted with a class of man-made chemicals known as PFAS,” commented Rep. Dean.
PFAS compounds have been used to manufacture a wide variety of consumer products for decades. The chemicals also appear in firefighting foam used by the Department of Defense, and runoff contaminates nearby water wells. “In Montgomery County alone, tens of thousands of people have seen their water tainted with these chemicals,” said Rep. Dean.
State and federal governments have been slow to act. The Environmental Protection Agency has attempted to block research showing just how dangerous these chemicals are. Funding for testing and cleanup has been insufficient. And the government shutdown has heightened the challenge.
“Right now, 93% of EPA employees are furloughed and the agency cannot take any action,” Rep. Dean pointed out.
PFAS contamination is a national problem: across 33 states and Puerto Rico, 16 million people contend with PFAS-tainted water. Until now, however, the issue has commanded little national attention.
“The Task Force is designed to bring PFAS issues before the entire Congress – and the country,” said Rep. Dean. “With a coordinated federal response, increased funding, effective legislation and requirements for remediation, and pressure on the EPA, we can address these issues far more effectively – and ensure that our constituents have clean, safe water to drink.”
Lawmakers on the Task Force want the EPA to designate PFAS a “hazardous substance” and create a nationwide maximum contaminant level (MCL) – a genuine and transparent regulatory standard.
Rep. Dean pointed to Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution as an inspiration for her approach to PFAS issues. The Section reads, “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
“Pure water – it doesn’t get more basic than that,” said Rep. Dean. “The people have a right to pure water, and it’s our job as legislators to protect that right.”
Co-Chair Rep. Dan Kildee commented on Rep. Dean’s role on the Task Force: “Each week, more PFAS chemical contamination sites are being identified across the country, including many in Pennsylvania. Congress must do more to address PFAS contamination and I’m excited to welcome Congresswoman Dean to the PFAS Task Force. She is dedicated to making sure Congress works for her constituents, which includes cleaning up PFAS contamination and ensuring residents in Montgomery County have access to safe drinking water.”