WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed heralded a new infusion of $18,914,000 in federal funding to help communities protect public health and address drinking water contamination from a group of toxic chemicals known as PFAS.

PFAS, short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, is a class of toxic chemicals used in many industrial products and processes, including cookware, carpets, textiles, food packaging, and firefighting foam. Known as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment, PFAS can contaminate air, water, and soil and end up in the bodies of animals and people.  The chemicals have been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer.

“We’ve got to get toxic chemicals out of our water and we must ensure people are well-informed about the safety of what comes out of their tap.  I’m pleased this money is beginning to flow to Rhode Island, which has already taken steps to tighten rules on PFAS in drinking water.  These federal funds will help small, rural, and disadvantaged communities throughout the state and nationwide defend against toxic chemicals in their drinking water supplies,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.  “And I urge the EPA and Biden Administration to move forward with a real sense of urgency to announce federal standards limiting PFAS in drinking water nationwide so states aren’t left with a patchwork of uncertainty.”

Senator Reed helped pass this needed federal funding, administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to assist states and communities nationwide with PFAS-related projects as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (P.L. 117-58), which President Biden signed into law in 2021.  The federal funds released today are the first tranche of a $5 billion pot set aside for PFAS grants to be disbursed over a five-year window.  The federal funds will help the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) enable communities impacted by elevated PFAS levels in drinking water to reduce emerging contaminants by conducting water quality testing and installing necessary treatment solutions.

Due to a state law passed last year, by July 1 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 million, it is required to provide potable water to customers until the issue has been fixed and the water tests below that level. 

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.

“As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have spearheaded several initiatives to combat PFAS contamination and reduce exposure.  We’ve launched the multi-year human health assessment by the CDC.  We’ve banned DOD from using firefighting foam containing PFAS and funded research into developing safer alternatives.  We’ve also required DOD to phase out firefighter turnout gear containing PFAS over the next few years.  These measures will help drive change in civilian firefighting practice.  Finally, we’ve restored the National Guard’s access to the DERP/DERA, and we’ve required that DOD no longer purchase food preparation items and furniture containing PFOS and PFOA.  We’ve taken important steps, but we’ve got to keep working on to protect people, our environment, and the economy,” said Reed.

Reed has also urged the Biden Administration to prioritize PFAS monitoring, testing, cleanup and support for impacted parties in its budgets.  And Reed wants the EPA to move with urgency to finalize rules to reduce people’s exposures to these toxic chemicals.

Reed says EPA’s 2021 PFAS Strategic Roadmap to address PFAS contamination was a major step forward, and urged the agency to move forward with finalizing proposals and PFAS drinking water limits without further delay.