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House lawmakers pass bill addressing PFAS in drinking water

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The First State is a step closer to seeing stronger regulation of so-called “forever chemicals” in its drinking water. 

House lawmakers passed legislation Thursday mandating the Division of Public Health and DNREC to work together to set standards for maximum allowable levels of PFAS chemicals in water.

Those contaminants include perfluorinated compounds like PFOA and PFOS, which are man-made chemicals.  Some studies show they are associated with increased risk of chronic diseases.

State Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Bellefonte) is the bill’s sponsor, and the Democrat says this legislation allows the state to step in since the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t so far.

"Right now, the EPA has not set a maximum contaminant level for PFAS contaminants," said Heffernan. "They have a health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion which is very low, but that health advisory level is just as it says a recommendation or an advisory level. It is not a legally enforceable limit."

Heffernan says her legislation would change that.

"It allows our state of Delaware to address the health risks of our widespread PFAS contamination. Right now usually the EPA will set an mcl, and an mcl is a legally enforceable maximum contaminant level for drinking water," saic Heffernan.

New Jersey is among the other states that have already set their own maximum contaminant levels. Pennsylvania is considering it.

The legislation also changes the time that DNREC and DPH can conduct public hearings on proposed regulations from six months to nine months. 

House lawmakers passed the bill unanimously with one representative absent.  The bill now heads to the state Senate.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.
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