Vermont bill requires testing for PFAS in drinking water
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Aiming to protect public health and the state’s waterways, the Vermont Legislature has passed a measure that would create a drinking water standard for a class of toxic chemicals and require by year’s end that public water systems monitor for the so-called PFAS.
The Senate on Friday concurred with a House amendment to the legislation. When asked if he would sign it, Republican Gov. Phil Scott said: “I think we’re getting very close on that.”
The perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances are used in products like nonstick cookware, carpets, firefighting foam and fast-food wrappers and have been linked to health threats ranging from cancer to decreased fertility. More than a dozen states are considering legislation related to the industrial compounds, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In Vermont, one of the chemicals has been found around two former ChemFab factories in the Bennington area.
“These substances can be toxic to humans in extremely small concentrations and unfortunately have been found in public and private water supplies in Vermont,” said Rep. Amy Sheldon, chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife, when the bill passed the full House. “This bill establishes regulatory monitoring of Vermont drinking waters to ensure that Vermonters remain safe and manufacturers are held accountable for their waste.”
The agency has a maximum contamination level for groundwater but not for drinking water.
The Vermont Health Department’s advisory level for PFAS in drinking water is not to exceed 20 parts per trillion.
The agency has started a pre-rulemaking process with stakeholders about the maximum contamination levels for drinking water but it will be difficult for all public water systems to test for PFAS by the end of the year, Deputy Natural Resources Secretary Peter Walke said Monday.
“We share the sense of urgency that the Legislature has and we hope that we can get it accomplished as quickly as possible but there are lots of public water supplies out there and so getting them all tested is going to be a challenge,” he said.
Earlier this month, state officials announced they had reached a settlement with a plastics company that would ensure hundreds of people in the Bennington area whose drinking water wells were contaminated with a chemical have access to clean water. Under the settlement, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics agreed to extend municipal water lines to more homes on the east side of Bennington, bringing the total number of affected homes and businesses in the area that will be hooked up to clean water to 470.
Contamination was also found in Hoosick Falls, New York, west of Bennington, and in parts of southern New Hampshire.
Last year, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics agreed to permanently provide the drinking water to 302 homes in Bedford, Litchfield and Merrimack.
The mayor of Hoosick Falls said earlier this month that town officials have authorized a lawsuit but have not filed one.
This story has been corrected to show that the acronym is PFAS, not PFAs.