WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Biden Administration finalized strict limits on certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals,” in drinking water that will require utilities to reduce them to the lowest level they can be reliably measured.  The new rule will further protect public health by requiring water systems to monitor and abate PFAS contamination.

This is the first time the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a drinking water standard for a new contaminant since 1996.  Some states – including Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts – have already passed drinking water standards for certain PFAS.  According to the EPA, water contaminated with PFAS – which doesn’t degrade in the environment – has potential health risks including links to decreased fertility and high blood pressure in women, developmental delays in children, increased risk of testicular, kidney, and prostate cancer, as well as decreased immune system function and hormonal imbalances.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed welcomed the Biden Administration taking bold action to protect Americans from harmful exposure to forever chemicals in their drinking water.  Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, also noted that the Biden Administration is making $1 billion in federal funding available to help water systems to monitor, treat, and abate PFAS contamination.  This funding comes directly from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (P.L. 117-58), that Senator Reed helped pass in 2021, which allocates $50 billion to improve America’s water quality and wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.

The final rule announced today will be phased in and is projected to reduce PFAS exposure for approximately 100 million people, improving public health and reducing tens of thousands of serious illnesses.

Senator Reed stated:

“Every American should be able to turn on their tap and access clean, safe drinking water.  Today, the Biden Administration is taking a bold, historic step to protect public health and curtail PFAS chemicals in our drinking water.  These tougher standards will reduce contaminants in our drinking water.  I am committed to ensuring Rhode Island municipalities and drinking water providers can meet these tough national PFAS limits.  Indeed, Rhode Island already has a head start because the state passed its own PFAS restrictions in 2022 and has already begun working to limit forever chemicals in our water supply.  This new federal rule comes with additional federal resources to pay for enhanced water treatment systems.  Since 2022, my colleagues in the delegation and I have already helped direct nearly $200 million to Rhode Island for water infrastructure projects.  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 chemicals often used to make products resist water, stains, and heat and were used at one point in many common household items.  Manufacturer 3M recently agreed to pay more than $10 billion to drinking water providers to settle PFAS litigation.

At the state level, Rhode Island passed a law in 2022 requiring all community water systems to test their drinking supplies for PFAS and report the results to the state Department of Health (DOH).  Under that state law, if a community reports a level of PFAS contamination over 20 parts per trillion, it is required to issue public advisories to customers and enter into an agreement with DOH outlining how it will lower the level of PFAS in their water.

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.