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Barrasso Pans EPA Fluorochemicals Plan, Promises Senate Hearings

Feb. 14, 2019, 3:27 PM

The EPA’s new plan for tackling a family of ubiquitous chemicals contaminating drinking water across the country lacks teeth, the head of the Senate’s environment panel said Feb. 14.

The Environmental Protection Agency needs to take “decisive action” to address the contaminants, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a Feb. 14 statement.

Barrasso said his committee will hold hearings on the EPA’s plan this spring.

The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Tom Carper (Del.), also called the EPA plan “insufficiently protective” in a statement.

In a press conference, acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said he has “every intention” of setting limits for two compounds in drinking water, but acknowledged he’s unsure how long that could take.

The family of compounds, also known as PFAS, have been used to manufacture firefighting foams as well as nonstick and stain-resistant coatings in clothing, fast-food wrappers, carpets, and other consumer products.

The chemicals could cause developmental effects to fetuses, testicular and kidney cancer, liver tissue damage, immune system or thyroid effects, and changes in cholesterol, according to the EPA.

The EPA’s strategy “outlines concrete steps” to address the compounds, according to an agency fact sheet. The report notes the agency’s progress toward considering drinking water limits, interim cleanup recommendations for contaminated groundwater, and other efforts, but does not commit to specific, enforceable standards.

The National Ground Water Association applauded the agency’s efforts to move toward drinking water standards for the contaminants.

“PFAS contamination is a national crisis that requires national leadership, and EPA’s announcement is an important step in providing that leadership,” Lauren Schapker, the association’s government affairs director, said in a statement. The association represents public and private sector scientists, engineers, and others who work in groundwater issues.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sylvia Carignan in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Andrew Childers at