WASHINGTON D.C. — A comprehensive bill spearheaded by Michigan lawmakers to tackle the growing PFAS problem is now heading to the Senate.
“We're so committed to keep fighting for this,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Detroit) during a press conference Thursday. “We're going to keep sounding like broken records until this law gets signed by the president, because it's about protecting public health; it's about protecting our environment.”
The PFAS Action Act, introduced by Dingell and Rep. Fred Upton (R–St. Joseph) in April, would among other things, establish a national drinking water standard for PFAS, classify the chemicals as “hazardous substances,” and allocate money for toxic site cleanup and wastewater treatment.
The House approved the bill on 241-183 vote Wednesday.
"The fact of the matter is, PFAS is an urgent public health crisis," Dingell said.
In Michigan alone, the toxic “forever chemical” has been found at more than 150 locations, a growing list that includes the cities of Rockford and Parchment.
According to information from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, PFAS can cause higher cholesterol levels, weaken the immune system, increase risk of cancer, and affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants of young children.
“I experienced firsthand dealing with the city of Parchment, what happened when their water supply was cut off literally overnight. I mean, they didn't know anything about it, and the next morning they were told they couldn't run their tap water,” Upton said.
The bill received bipartisan support, including a big chunk of Michigan’s congressional delegation, who spoke about the importance of tackling the issue Thursday.
"Clean air and clean water should be a base expectation in this country and to make sure that we are fulfilling that in tackling the most kind of troubling new discoveries when it comes to the PFAS family of chemicals,” Rep. Peter Meijer (R–Grand Rapids) said.
“I'm glad to be a part of that to make sure that cleanup is happening.” Rep. Bill Huizenga (R–Zeeland) said. “This is not a partisan issue; this is not just a one state issue. This is an issue that we need to deal with as a country.”
"We're looking harder than anyone in the country for PFAS because of course of what our experience was with Flint, but also because of our identity as a state," says Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D–Lansing). Our waters and our water are a huge part of our lives in Michigan. And we really feel that in Congress that Michigan is leading on this."
"It's a critical step in protecting our students against PFAS exposure, which has proven to have dangerous health and developmental impacts for our children," Rep. Andy Levin (D–Bloomfield Township) said of the bill.
"Now in 2021, there isn't a week that goes by where I don't talk to another member of Congress about contamination in their district. More and more people are learning, are being impacted by PFAS contamination," says Rep. Dan Kildee (D–Flint), who started a bipartisan congressional PFAS task force. "Today, our task force has over 60 members."
“To everybody who says bipartisanship doesn't exist in the House of Representatives, this is a living, breathing proof that it does,” Dingell added.
Upton and Dingell passed an identical bill last year, but it was never taken up by then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Kentucky).
There’s confidence it will see a Senate vote this time around, and it has support from President Joe Biden’s administration.