Governor DeWine issues order to analyze PFAS in Ohio’s drinking water

By Christine Rideout Schirra | JD Supra | October 15, 2019

Read the full article by Christine Rideout Schirra (JD Supra)

“On September 27, 2019, Governor Mike DeWine announced that he has directed the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to analyze the prevalence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (collectively, PFAS) in Ohio’s drinking water systems (Governor’s Order). PFAS are not currently regulated compounds in Ohio. According to the governor, the current levels of PFAS in Ohio’s water supply are unknown, and an analysis ‘is important for both the protection of [Ohio’s] natural resources and for public health’…

More specifically, Governor DeWine has directed Ohio EPA and ODH to develop an ‘action plan’ by December 1, 2019, with the focus of testing public and private water systems. The governor’s order specifically notes that water supplies ‘near known sources of PFAS, such as firefighting training sites and manufacturing facilities’ are to be analyzed.

As part of this action plan, Ohio EPA and ODH are to develop a strategy to work with communities and private well owners on ‘appropriate response measures if high levels of PFAS are found.’ The governor’s order further directs the agencies to develop education and outreach materials to assist Ohioans in better understanding PFAS compounds, any associated health risks and practical measures to reduce exposure. Lastly, the order directs Ohio EPA and ODH to continuously monitor emerging areas of national research as they pertain to adequate chemical substitutes for PFAS, soil remediation and technologies to treat PFAS.

The governor’s press release comes on the heels of a September 18, 2019, letter sent by Governor DeWine to the U.S. Senate and House Armed Services Committees calling for more comprehensive national legislation on the regulation of PFAS. That letter was joined by 14 other governors from across the country. According to DeWine, the evaluation of PFAS risks is an issue that requires the attention and resources of the federal government in addition to states in order to effectively address potential PFAS contamination…

According to US EPA, the concern with PFAS compounds – and specifically with PFOS and PFOA – is that they are very persistent in the environment and the human body, they do not break down, and they can, therefore, accumulate over time, leading to adverse human health effects.

Notably, two main PFAS compounds have already been phased out of production in the United States (PFOS in 2002 and PFOA in 2015). This is due to the commitment of eight major chemical manufacturers to participate in US EPA’s PFOA Stewardship Program and, thereby, eliminate use of these PFAS compounds. However, these compounds are still produced in international markets and imported into the United States through consumer goods, such as carpet, leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging, coatings, rubber and plastics…

States that have already promulgated guidelines or standards for PFOA and/or PFOS include Alaska, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and Vermont. A number of other states are moving towards similar action. Notably, existing state standards vary widely in terms of the numerical value of the standard, the process for developing the standard and the manner in which the standard is to apply…

In recent years, PFAS compounds have been the subject of litigation across the country, as well as in Ohio. In 2017, DuPont settled nearly 3,500 lawsuits for $670 million involving PFAS and its DuPont Washington Works plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. In 2018, the Ohio Attorney General filed a lawsuit against DuPont on behalf of the State of Ohio, with allegations of environmental contamination and public nuisance associated with DuPont’s use of PFAS and remains pending.[1] Additionally, there is current ongoing litigation in Ohio involving a firefighter’s proposed class action lawsuit against several manufacturers of PFAS products associated with exposure to PFAS through products, such as firefighting foam.[2] …”

This content provided by the PFAS Project.