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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 28, 2018 02:00 PM
From: Senator Maria Collett
To: All Senate members
Subject: Pennsylvania PFAS Classification and Cleanup
I am introducing legislation amending the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (HSCA) to protect communities from the dangers associated with contamination from the release of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS). This legislation is based upon SB 852, introduced by my predecessor in the previous session.

Decades after the United States Navy and Air National Guard used an unregulated contaminant in firefighting training on three former bases (the Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base and Horsham Air Guard Station in Horsham, and the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster) in Montgomery and Bucks counties, PFAS chemicals have turned up in elevated levels in public and private water wells in three communities I represent. The primary affected areas are in Horsham, Warminster, and Warrington Townships, but recent findings suggest the contamination has spread to at least 22 additional municipalities. Since the initial discovery of these chemicals in 2014, local municipal authorities have been forced to close public and private wells and purchase uncontaminated water at a steep premium to residents – innocent victims whose health and safety have been compromised at no fault of their own. A growing body of science has established associations between PFAS and a range of negative health effects, including infertility, high cholesterol, and a variety of cancers. In December of 2018, the Federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released the results of an initial blood test pilot study of impacted residents which indicated significantly higher PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, and PFHxS levels compared to the rest of the nation. The residents in these communities deserve clean, safe drinking water, and we must do everything necessary to defend their Article 1 Section 27 Commonwealth constitutional rights.

While the Department of Defense (DOD), U.S. Navy, and Air National Guard have agreed to provide for cleanup of the water contamination impacting these local communities, their efforts are severely limited by the EPA’s current Health Advisory Limit (HAL) of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS. To address our residents’ concerns and in light of conflicting and changing guidelines at the state and national levels, our local governments have understandably taken a more proactive approach. Given this confusion and the threat that PFAS pose to our public health and safety, urgent action is needed.

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, triggering municipalities’ ability to seek legal recourse to fully recoup remediation costs from the responsible party or parties.

Second, the bill permits the Governor to declare an emergency, similar to a natural disaster like a flood, in any community whose surface and groundwater resources used for public drinking water have been impacted by the release of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances which measure at or above 10 parts per trillion. By declaring such an emergency, the Governor may establish safe drinking water and cleanup standards for the affected area to allow appropriate federal and state response efforts to protect the health and safety of our residents.

Third, the bill deems communities receiving a special emergency declaration eligible to receive PENNVEST grants, which 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.

I hope you join me in cosponsoring this crucial legislation. If you have any questions about this legislation, please contact my Legislative Director at Tom.Holroyd@pasenate.com

Introduced as SB582