Monday, October 28, 2019

Clean Water Action Says Senate Bill 919 PFAS Bill Is Meant To Protect The Industry

On October 28, Clean Water Action wrote to members of the Senate urging them to oppose Senate Bill 919 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) which restricts the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS chemicals saying the bill was introduced to protect the industry by the Fluorine Council and the Foam Manufacturers Alliance.
The text of the letter follows--
Dear Senator,
Clean Water Action and our nearly 80,000 statewide members OPPOSE SB 919 and urge you to vote NO on it when it comes up for consideration. 
While the bill restricts the use of Class B firefighting foams containing per- and polyfluoroalkylsubstances (PFAS) for training and testing, it puts fire fighters and communities at risk from the dangers of PFAS containing foam. 
In addition, it shifts the burden of responsibility and perhaps liability for damage from PFAS from the chemical industry to fire departments.
PFAS are a suite of over 3,000 toxic chemicals widely used in industry. Exposure is associated with health impacts including cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and birth defects. 
A recent study indicates that the health effects of PFAS chemicals is a concern at lower levels than previously thought, and in addition, PFAS has been shown to break down slowly in the environment, so existing contamination is not going away. 
The scope of the problem is growing. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has identified 24 PFAS contamination sites within 5 of their 6 regional districts, some of which are the result of nearby military bases using fire fighting foam containing PFAS that has runoff the site.
SB 919 may look like reform and a solution to this issue but it’s not. The bill is similar to others the Fluorine Council and the Foam Manufacturers Alliance have introduced across the country that is meant to protect them and their interests by responding to activity in states like Washington, Colorado and New Hampshire that passed complete bans on the use of PFAS in firefighting foam. 
Specific language in SB 919 that is problematic includes:
-- Section 3’s allowance of continued use of PFAS foam at testing facilities that have “appropriate containment”. This shifts the burden of responsibility to fire departments, including the possibility of their being liable for contamination if their containment system does not adequately prevent future exposures to PFAS. Focusing on containment of PFAS amounts to a get-out-of-jail-free card for the industry, when the onus should be placed on chemical manufacturers to pay for the damage they have caused our fire fighters and communities. 
-- Additionally, the bill’s definition of PFAS includes the phrase, “and designed to be fully functional in Class B firefighting foam formulations.” Having the definition contain this last provision could significantly narrow the definition of PFAS in foam. 
-- Section 5 of the legislation essentially endorses the continued use of PFAS containing foam in Pennsylvania, and would put legislators on record as supporting the need to continue its use in firefighting.  
We recommend this section be removed and that the bill be reoriented towards getting Pennsylvania to transition firefighting entities to non-PFAS containing foam alternatives with a ban on all uses of PFAS containing foam, not just use in testing and training.  
We need to guard against implementing a policy that does not ban the use of PFAS in foam but rather only hopes to contain it. 
As history has shown us, PFAS cannot be contained. Clean Water Action would support legislative efforts that would ban all uses of PFAS containing foam, as other states have enacted.  
In addition, the Department of Defense (DoD) authorization bill currently before Congress would also effectively ban all uses of PFAS containing foam by the military through eliminating it from the DoD specifications for firefighting foam. Pennsylvania should do no less.
Please join us opposing SB 919 by voting NO when it comes before you for consideration and working toward completely banning the use of firefighting foam that contains PFAS.
Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director
Steven Hvozdovich, PA Campaign Director
Senate Bill 919 was reported from the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on October 23 and is now on the Senate Calendar for action.
For more information, visit the Clean Water Action website or call 215-545-0250.
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[Posted: October 28, 2019]

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