News Brief: PFAS legislation advanced

Joint Committee on the Environment advances legislation addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl

Boston — Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and Sen. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture have announced that the committee has advanced legislation aimed at addressing the issue of contamination of drinking water sources by per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS).

H.3851, carrying S.2284, “An Act promoting establishing an interagency PFAS task force,” would establish a task force to review and investigate water and ground contamination of PFAS in Massachusetts. Filed by Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, and Rep. Kate Hogan, D-Stow, the legislation has the support of OARS, the Charles River Watershed Association, the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, the Neponset River Watershed Association, the Ipswich River Watershed Association, the Environmental League of Massachusetts, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, the Conservation Law Foundation, and Mass Audubon.

PFAS is a chemical in mainstream use in products such as nonstick cookware and firefighting foam. PFAS have multiple negative health effects, including stunting growth and development in children, decreasing fertility, weakening the immune system, increasing the risk of getting cancer, and increasing the risk of getting high cholesterol. The EPA advises that no more than 70 parts per trillion of PFAS should be in drinking water.

Often referred to as “forever chemicals,” they remain in bodies and the environment, and many will not naturally degrade over time. PFAS exposure has been linked to severe health issues such as thyroid disorders, liver damage and multiple forms of cancer, and can be particularly harmful to pregnant women.

This task force established by this legislation would be a first step in eliminating unsafe quantities of PFAS from drinking water by determining the most effective methods to prevent PFAS overconsumption and mitigate its effects.

Complementing this legislative effort, the supplemental budget bill filed by Gov. Charlie Baker in September contained key funding provisions for PFAS testing and mitigation as part of $60 million in investments related to clean drinking water. This includes $7.4 million for statewide PFAS testing and response across public and private water sources and $1 million in technical assistance grants to support the design of water treatment systems. The bill will also make available no-interest loans for PFAS remediation projects through targeted investments in the Clean Water Trust.

The bill has been reported out of the Joint Committee on the Environment and is now in the House Committee on Ways and Means.