EPA unveils plan for non-stick chemicals, but it disappoints clean water proponents

15 Février, 2019, 03:39 | Auteur: Therese Cote
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Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group said that without firm action and deadlines, he expected the EPA announcement to be no more than a "plan to plan".

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, were used in firefighting foams by the military and were widely discovered in 2014 to have leached into drinking water and groundwater near military bases nationwide.

The chemicals are found in consumer products ranging from fabrics, rugs and carpets, cooking pots and pans, outdoor gear, shampoo, shaving cream, makeup and even dental floss.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it is moving forward with a response to a class of long-lasting chemical contaminants amid criticism from members of Congress and environmentalists that the agency has not moved aggressively enough to regulate them.

Scientific studies have found "associations" between the chemicals and cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and other health issues.

Wheeler described his agency's approach as "the most comprehensive cross-agency plan to address an emerging chemical of concern ever undertaken by EPA".

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With communities around the country finding PFAS in their drinking water, Republican and Democratic lawmakers pressed Wheeler on PFAS during his confirmation process.

Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, whose state of West Virginia was one of the first where PFAS contamination was linked to human health problems, said she voted for Wheeler's appointment in committee earlier this month only after he privately assured her the EPA would tackle the problem. Tom Carper of DE, said the agency's plan takes only timid steps toward fulfilling pledges made by former EPA head Scott Pruitt, who in May 2018 described PFAS pollution as "a national priority". "We need to make sure that every American, regardless of zip code, has safe, reliable drinking water". Meanwhile, the EPA said a rule setting maximum limits should be ready by the end of the year.

"While EPA acts with the utmost urgency to repeal regulations", Carper said, "the agency ambles with complacency when it comes to taking real steps to protect the water we drink and the air we breathe".

Capito was one of 20 senators who wrote to Wheeler demanding ceilings on two phased-out types of PFAS chemicals.

Thousands of distinct PFAS chemicals, which resist heat and repel grease, water and oil, have been in production since the 1940s. Testing of water systems around the nation has turned up varying levels of the compounds.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler was expected to announce the plan during a briefing Thursday in Philadelphia.

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