WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed spoke out in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed action to establish a strong national drinking water standard for six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and significantly reduce the number of PFAS-attributable illnesses and deaths.

Reed stated:

“This is long overdue and a major step forward for public health and protecting families and communities from unsafe hazards in drinking water.  Advances in science have demonstrated that PFAS are linked to cancer, birth defects, diabetes, and autoimmune problems.  The current limits on PFAS in water are simply too lenient.  These tougher standards will reduce human health risks.

“The EPA’s proposal would set a new, enforceable maximum contaminant level for two of the most-studied and most prevalent per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in drinking water: PFOA and PFOS.  These toxic compounds are a threat to human health.  The EPA’s proposed crackdown on these chemicals is a strong start and I’d like to see an even stronger federal response to eliminating these toxic chemicals.

“I am committed to getting toxic chemicals out of our drinking water and ensuring people are well-informed about the safety of what comes out of their tap.  To that end, I have delivered federal funding to help Rhode Island’s water systems eliminate these chemicals from our water supply and prepare to comply with stricter PFAS limits and higher clean water standards.  Federal, state, and local officials and water utilities must work together to effectively address PFAS and I will ensure the federal government is a reliable partner in this endeavor.”

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a class of about 14,000 chemicals often used to make products resist water, stains, and heat and were used at one point in many common household items.

Congress included $5 billion over five years for PFAS grants to assist states and communities nationwide with PFAS-related projects as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (P.L. 117-58).  Last month, Senator Reed announced that Rhode Island had received its first tranche from this pot -- $18.9 million to help the Rhode Island Department of Health enable communities impacted by elevated PFAS levels in drinking water to reduce emerging contaminants by conducting water quality testing and installing necessary treatment solutions.  Additionally, Rhode Island has received $7.5 million through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program specifically to treat PFAS and other emerging contaminants.

Due to a state law passed last year, by July 1, 2023, all community water systems in Rhode Island are required to sample for PFAS.  Under that law, if a community reports a level of PFAS contamination over 20 parts per trillion, it is required to provide potable water to customers until the issue has been fixed and the water tests below that level or any more stringent limits established by the federal government.

To help address PFAS cleanup efforts near military installations, Senator Reed helped authorize more than $500 million for PFAS cleanup across the military services in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and ensure the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does its part to study human health impacts from PFAS in drinking water sources.

The EPA is hosting webinars in the coming weeks and requesting public comment on the proposed federal regulation.  Senator Reed encourages all Rhode Islanders impacted by PFAS to submit feedback to the EPA during the public comment period.  Comments may be submitted through: https://www.epa.gov/sdwa/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas