U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet joined 29 other senators in a letter to the Trump Administration asking when it will implement the plan to mitigate and restrict cancer-causing chemicals known as PFAS.
“As you are aware, communities across the country are struggling to respond to the widespread issue of PFAS contamination. The human health risks from this class of chemicals, which include birth defects, various forms of cancer, and immune system dysfunction, are still being examined, and the uncertainty has caused great concern among our constituents,” read the letter dated Feb. 14.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are common in consumer and industrial products. “Due to their widespread use,” a report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 2019 found, “most people in the United States have been exposed to PFAS.” The agency proposed a series of actions, including a national drinking water standard and cleanup guidelines.
In 2016 the EPA lowered its health advisory levels for the compounds – vastly expanding the number of southern El Paso County residents considered at risk. A subsequent study tied the contamination to the decadeslong use of a firefighting foam at Peterson Air Force Base.
Exposure to the chemicals appears to have changed in recent years. Water districts in the towns of Security, Widefield and Fountain shut off access to the aquifer three to four years ago, and they say they now remove the chemicals to non-detectable levels before sending it to residents’ houses.
In the letter, the senators believe the agency has not acted quickly enough to make the water safe.
“Despite then-Administrator Scott Pruitt committing the EPA to designating these materials as hazardous substances in May 2018, the EPA has not even sent a proposal to the Office of Management & Budget,” they wrote.
The lawmakers are asking for the EPA to prioritize the establishment of a maximum contamination level for drinking water and to allow cost-recovery for cleanup by labeling PFAS as hazardous substances.