‘I need PFAS polluters to be held accountable’ Congress told at hearing
By Paula Gardner | MLive | July 25, 2019
Read full article by Paula Gardner (MLive)
“The complexity of PFAS cascaded into a U.S. House of Representatives hearing on Wednesday, as science, opinion, caution and outrage underscored the testimony of two panels gathered in Washington, D.C.
Tears came, too.
Sandy Wynn-Stelt, the West Michigan woman with eye-widening number of fluorochemicals in her blood, detailed her sense of loss as she realized that her husband may have died from the high levels in their drinking water due to contamination from an old dump once filled with Scotchguard from Wolverine Worldwide’s factory.
‘My world was shattered,’ she said.
Statements and requests for details flowed among the legislators in the subcommittee hearing room as she and others told their stories. Some representatives needed basic information on the chemicals. Others, including several from Michigan, were ready to ask more pointed questions to get to the hearing’s stated purpose: exploring corporate responsibility...
‘I need polluters to be held accountable so that my tax dollars don’t go to clean it up,’ Wynn-Stelt said.
Her message was echoed by several of the participants in the House Subcommittee on the Environment, from others whose communities have been affected by high levels of the contaminants to officials of states like New Jersey, New Hampshire and Michigan.
The hearing, called ‘The Devil They Knew – PFAS Contamination and the Need for Corporate Accountability,’ convened at 2 p.m. July 24…
Along with Wynn-Stelt’s testimony, there was Bucky Bailey, who was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia. His mother had worked with PFAS in a DuPont factory, and the family’s questions about his birth defects were centerpiece of ‘The Devil We Know’ film documentary. Emily Donovan turned into a community activist as she learned about the chemical dumping in the Cape Fear River and wondered why so many people – ‘too young’ – suffer serious health problems. A second panel pulled state officials, a pair of scientists and a corporate attorney into the mix.
The hearing detailed the basics of the manmade chemicals, with questions raised about their composition, their persistence in the environment and their risks to human health, as determined over decades of research – much of it by chemical companies before the public was aware of suspected dangers…
Awareness continues to grow, but questions remain: Who pays for safe water and cleanup?
Michigan communities already have paid millions toward water filters and other related expenses, while the state budgeted $50 million for its efforts this budget year to find PFAS and contain it. Efforts also have touched known polluters, with some companies having to increase filtration of their wastewater before sending to a public utility and the state litigating against Wolverine due to the 25-mile area that it affected in and around Rockford…
A representative from another state specifically spoke to polluters.
‘New Jersey believes that the manufacturers, as well as chemical processors and other users of PFAS that have allowed those chemicals to contaminate the environment and drinking water supplies, should be held responsible to the public for the costs and damages of the drinking water contamination and other harmful consequences of their actions and negligence,’ said Catherine McCabe, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
One solution, said Donovan, co-founder of the Clean Cape Fear community group, is to get the federal government to designate PFAS as a class of chemicals, which could streamline health-based approaches to understanding the chemicals – and reducing risks as scientists learn more about the newer versions…
What isn’t working, Donovan said, is requiring piecemeal litigation across the U.S. to recover costs associated with removing PFAS from public drinking water.
‘We shouldn’t have to sue Chemours to pay for the damage they have done,’ said Donovan, referring to the GenX pollution in North Carolina.
Jane Luxton, co-chair of the environmental practice group for Washington, D.C.-based law firm Lewis Brisbane, said
…states, federal agencies, and the scientific community are ‘working vigorously to address PFAS issues against a backdrop of limited scientific knowledge, complexity, economic realities, and competing public health priorities.’
But she also introduced concerns about what is known about PFAS.
‘More research is needed,’ she said, ‘… to ensuring that resources are properly focused to address the highest-priority public health risks.’
Other witnesses agreed, but several expressed frustration that corporations discharging the chemicals into drinking water supplies don’t have to first prove that any of the current PFAS chemicals in production and use need to first be proven safe for human consumption.
‘The current approach of releasing chemical products into the marketplace and subjecting the human beings and environment to their effects without a full understanding of their chemical characteristics, toxicity, and persistence, and without proper analytical methods, leaves us in a position of perpetually scrambling to address the injuries caused by these chemicals rather than preventing them,’ said McCabe…
Robert Scott, Commissioner of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, said businesses have a role in solving the spread of PFAS – and not just through cleanups.
‘Industry should embrace the regulatory certainty this approach would provide,’ he said. ‘Similarly, a partnership between the federal government and industry to eliminate these compounds from commerce would be the most economical and beneficial approach to solve this issue, both for the economy and public health.'”
This content provided by the PFAS Project.