Proposed Federal Grants Would Help Eliminate PFAS From Rural Water Supplies

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Congress is considering new legislation to provide grants for testing and filtration systems to remove so-called eternal chemicals and other contaminants from drinking water supplies in rural areas.

The Healthy H2O Act was introduced in the House on Thursday by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and North Carolina Rep. David Rouzer, RN.C., at the same time a companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Tammy Baldwin. , D-Wisconsin.

Maine is experiencing a “chemical crisis forever,” with new contaminated sites being identified regularly, but it’s not just Maine’s problem, Pingree said. Maine is “ahead of the curve” when it comes to testing, she said, but the rest of the country is likely facing the same problem: “They just don’t know it yet.”

“The Healthy H2O Act will make testing and treatment technology more accessible so that we can treat contaminants in our water and our communities can be protected from these harmful chemicals,” Pingree said in a written statement.

The Healthy H2O Act covers a number of long-known contaminants, from lead to arsenic, but also emerging chemical threats such as so-called eternal chemicals, or PFAS, found in groundwater around farms where sludge has been applied as fertilizer since the 1970s.

PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of more than 4,000 man-made chemicals that have been used since the 1950s in industrial and household products like waterproof clothing, nonstick cookware, and fire-fighting foam. They have been linked to cancer, kidney dysfunction, immune system suppression and pre-eclampsia in pregnant women.

Public water supply systems treat water before distributing it to consumers, but 43 million households in mostly rural communities rely exclusively on wells fed by groundwater, which is generally untested. This can delay the identification and response to health threats posed by contaminants.

“Rural communities in Maine and across the country have long struggled to receive the support needed from DC to reliably access clean, safe drinking water,” said Jason House, a Maine resident who serves as president-elect of the National Ground Water Association.

“The Healthy H2O Act will bring much-needed resources to our rural communities and directly impact the health of our families across the state and beyond,” House said. “We couldn’t be more supportive.”

The Healthy H2O Act would provide U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development grants to individuals, nonprofits, and local governments for water quality testing and the purchase and installation point-of-use or point-of-entry water quality improvement systems.

Maine routinely finds the forever chemicals in everything from wells to milk to deer meat and chicken eggs, and the state has been on the front lines of many PFAS issues, including the establishing drinking water standards higher than federal standards and attempting to document the extent of contamination by conducting a statewide review of approximately 700 farms where state-licensed sludge likely to being rich in PFAS have been spread.

Earlier this year, Maine lawmakers voted to ban the sale, distribution and use of any pesticide containing PFAS, which has been detected at high levels in Maine farming communities.

Lawmakers also banned sludge landfilling, a decades-old practice of recycling state-approved municipal sludge from sewage treatment plants into fertilizer to enrich Maine farmland, which is believed to be the primary source. of PFAS contamination in at least three dozen Maine communities.

The sludge has since been linked to contaminated well water, fields, crops and milk from dairy herds that grazed on land fertilized with sludge. Many of these farmers had to withdraw their produce from the market and cull infected herds. Maine has created a $60 million relief fund to help affected farmers.


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