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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: August 7, 2017 01:02 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Communities with Water Contamination from PFOA and PFOS
I am introducing legislation amending the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (HSCA) aimed at communities impacted by water contamination from the release of polyfluoroalkyl substances and perfluorinated chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

First, the legislation would designate these substances, their equivalents, and any chemical substance or compound designated by executive order that poses a threat to public health and safety or the environment, as a “hazardous substance” under HSCA. By adding PFOA and PFOS to the list of “hazardous substance” under HSCA, it will help trigger the ability to utilize the State Superfund program and provide local officials with the ability to seek legal recourse for full recovery of costs to manage these compounds found in their water supply. The responsible party should pay for all the water contamination costs incurred by the local government that ensures removal of the chemicals from their water supplies to the lowest level that can be detected. Earlier this year New York finalized a rule adding PFOA and PFOS to the state’s list of hazardous substances.

Second, it directs the Department of Environmental Protection to, within 12 months of the establishment of a maximum containment level, health advisory level or provisional health advisory level for any substance, determine whether the substance should be classified by regulation as a hazardous substance. A growing body of science has established associations between PFOS and PFOA and a range of health effects, including a variety of cancers. The EPA has set a combined Health Advisory Limit (HAL) of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS, which is not enforceable.

However, given the threat that these contaminates pose to the public’s health and safety, there is a real concern that the limit for such contaminates should be lower. Several states have set a limit for these contaminants at a level lower than the EPA’s HAL. Vermont has set a safe drinking water standard of 20 ppt for both chemicals, while New Jersey is currently considering instituting a 14 ppt limit for PFOA in drinking water. Residents of the affected communities have had to purchase bottled water for consumption and are suffering from untold health effects caused by years of exposure to these hazardous chemicals.

Third, the bill permits the Governor to declare an emergency, similar to a natural disaster like a flood, in a community whose surface and groundwater resources used for public drinking water have been impacted by the release of hazardous substances or a polyfluoroalkyl substance or perfluorinated chemical, including PFOA and PFOS which measures at or above 15 ppt. By declaring an area as a “special drinking water resource-impacted community”, the Governor may establish alternative drinking water and cleanup standards for the included area to allow appropriate federal and state response efforts to protect the health and safety of our residents. The standards would take effect immediately upon creation by the Governor and remain in effect for 24 months or until they are rescinded, amended, the emergency condition and public health threat has been abated or a final rulemaking is published at the state level (Environmental Quality Board) or federal level (EPA) establishing a maximum containment level for the substance.

Fourth, those communities receiving a special emergency declaration shall be eligible to receive PENNVEST grants. The monies may be used to provide treatment to impacted public water supplies, extension of water lines, interconnection of private water users to public water systems as well as procure alternative water supply resources. While the Department of Defense (DOD)/U.S. Navy has agreed to provide for cleanup of the water contamination impacting these local communities, they are limiting their cleanup costs to the levels (HAL) set by the EPA. As a result, local municipal authorities are now being forced into the position of purchasing uncontaminated water from neighboring sources and passing the associated costs on to the consumers – innocent victims whose health has been compromised by the negligent actions at these installations. Warminster Municipal Authority, for example, estimates that the total costs for residential customers over 10 years could be as much as $26 million.

Finally, the measure would exempt a municipality, municipal authority or other public water supplier as a responsible party as it relates to the presence of a polyfluoroalkyl substance or perfluorinated chemical in wastewater treatment plant sludge, water supply treatment residuals or other facility operational wastes. These public entities should not be held liable in any way for the water contamination.

Decades after the United States Navy used an unregulated contaminant in firefighting training on two former bases (Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Horsham and Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster) in Montgomery and Bucks counties, the chemicals (PFOA and PFOS) are turning up in elevated levels in public and private water wells in three communities I represent - Warrington, Horsham and Warminster Townships. The release of these chemicals has resulted in the closure of 22 public water wells and approximately 230 private wells in the three townships. This contamination has local residents very concerned for their health and safety. The residents in these communities deserve clean, safe drinking water.

This is a companion to Representatives Katharine Watson and Bernie O’Neill’s proposals (HB 1398 and HB 1640).

Introduced as SB852