Water coalition testifies before Congress on importance of PFAS exemption for utility comapnies

March 28, 2024
The Water Coalition Against PFAS testifies on the importance of making polluters pay for contamination.

The Water Coalition Against PFAS testified on Capitol Hill March 20, 2024 before the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee at a hearing entitled “Examining PFAS as Hazardous Substances.”

The Coalition examined the implications of listing certain per-and polyfluoroakyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability ACT (CERCLA).

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering listing several PFAS, or “forever chemicals," as hazardous substances under CERCLA.

The CDC defines PFAS as “. . . a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. Fluoropolymer coatings can be in a variety of products.”

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These products draw attention because they don’t break down in the environment. They can move through soil and contaminate fresh water sources, and they can build up in fish and wildlife.

People can be exposed to PFAS anytime they consume contaminated water or food, or by using products that contain PFAS.

The Water Coalition Against PFAS was represented at the hearing by Michael Witt. Witt is the General Counsel of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission in Newark, New Jersey.

Witt emphasized the need to hold the companies that produce PFAS chemicals accountable.

Currently it’s up to utility providers to clean up PFAS contaminated water which they passively receive through wastewater discharged into sewer systems from homes and businesses.

The act of cleaning water of PFAS requires new updates and technologies that are costly, and that cost falls upon the utility companies and their customers.

Witt stated that he wanted to make sure that the polluters, where PFAS originates, pays for the cleanup – not the public.

Many people supported Witt’s stance at the hearing including Adam Krantz, Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), and Tracy Mehan, Executive Director of Government Affairs for the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

Krantz believes Congress should create a true polluter pays approach to address PFAS pollution, reinforcing the idea that companies that produce PFAS should be held accountable.

Mehan stated that those responsible for polluting should also be held accountable for cleanup. This would come via specific protections from Congress for water and wastewater systems.

The Coalition is asking for protection through CERCLA so that the full cost of cleaning PFAS out of water doesn’t fall on the utility companies but instead on the polluters.

The Water Coalition Against PFAS is comprised of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), the National Rural Water Association (NWRA) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF).

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