Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a hearing “Examining the federal response to the risks associated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).” PFAS chemicals have been used in industrial, commercial, and consumer applications since the 1940s. Scientists have identified specific health effects associated with exposure to them.
The hearing featured testimony from David Ross, assistant administrator of the Office of Water at the Environmental Protection Agency; Maureen Sullivan, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Environment at the Department of Defense; Dr. Patrick Breysse, director of the National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health.
For more information on witness testimony click here.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Today, we will examine the issue of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.
“PFAS are a large class of chemicals known for their resistance to both oil and water.
“Since the 1940s, PFAS have been used in a broad array of industrial, commercial, and consumer applications – including nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, stain-resistant fabrics, food packaging, and aqueous film-forming foams.
“These are foams used by the U.S. military and others to fight fires.
“Scientists have found that PFAS breakdown very slowly, if at all, in the natural environment.
“They have also found that some accumulate in the human body.
“These chemicals travel through water, through air, through soil.
“Humans absorb them through ingestion, inhalation, and their skin.
“It is estimated that 97 percent of Americans have detectable concentrations of PFAS in their blood.
“Scientists believe PFAS are associated with negative health effects, and more research is needed.
“To date, scientists have detected PFAS pollution in nearly every state.
“It appears to be concentrated in communities adjacent to, nearby, or downstream from military bases, airfields and airports, firefighting facilities, and chemical manufacturing and processing facilities.
“Today, we will hear from four witnesses, representing three federal agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Defense, and Health and Human Services.
“This is the first congressional hearing where all four witnesses from the relevant agencies will testify on the same panel.
“This will give us a chance to hear how the administration is addressing this important issue.
“Last month, EPA released its PFAS Action Plan.
“This plan includes deciding, by the end of the year, whether to set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for PFOA and PFOS under the Safe Drinking Water Act; deciding whether to list these chemicals as ‘hazardous substances’ under the Superfund law; and issuing cleanup guidance for groundwater contaminated with these two chemicals.
“EPA’s cleanup guidance is currently pending at the Office of Management and Budget.
“The Defense Department has identified 401 active or closed military facilities with known or suspected releases of PFOS or PFOA.
“This includes the F.E. Warren Air Force Base and the Cheyenne Air National Guard Base in my home state of Wyoming.
“The Defense Department needs to take responsibility for its pollution.
“Most rural communities can’t afford to clean up this contamination.
“Scientists have identified over 4,700 different PFAS chemicals.
“Over 1,200 of these have – at some point in time – entered U.S. commerce.
“To date, EPA has only been able to publish a monitoring methodology for 18 different PFAS chemicals in drinking water.
“It is important that industry work with EPA, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health, to help these agencies better detect PFAS, identify where these chemicals are produced and used, and understand the risks associated with them.
“In addition to the federal agency response, I would like to take a moment and highlight the bipartisan work that Ranking Member Carper and I, and the members of this committee have done, on helping address this issue in America’s Water Infrastructure Act which was signed into law by President Trump in October of last year.
“This committee, along with our House counterparts, placed several provisions in the legislation to help address PFAS.
“These include new grant opportunities for states to address contaminants that are present or likely present in public water systems or underground drinking water sources.
“These grants will assist states with small and disadvantaged communities to promptly address problems associated with testing, treatment, and remediation of contamination sources such as PFAS.
“Our legislation also reauthorized the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds for the first time in decades.
“It greatly increases funding for this critical program so that drinking water systems can improve or replace their facilities to meet Safe Drinking Water Act standards and to improve public health.
“With the enactment of America’s Water Infrastructure Act, we have taken a significant step in the right direction to help address contaminants in drinking water, including PFAS.
“So we hope that this hearing can help the committee assess the next steps on PFAS.
“Working together, we can continue to find bipartisan solutions to address this important issue.”