Pa.’s Casey, Fetterman announce $75M to fight ‘forever chemicals’ | Wednesday Morning Coffee

The federal infrastructure law cash will help fight PFAS contamination in drinking water, a rising public health threat

By: - February 15, 2023 7:12 am

(Photo by New Jersey Monitor).

Pennsylvania is in line for $75 million in funding through the federal infrastructure law to help fight contamination in the state’s drinking water, including so-called ‘forever chemicals’ that are a rising public health threat.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman announced the grant funding, which is being channeled through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in a joint statement on Tuesday.

Casey said he’s been “trying for years” to get cancer-causing Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, more widely known as PFAS chemicals, out of public water supplies and “keep them out.”

The funding is a “a strong start to clean up PFAS contamination in Pennsylvania’s waters,” the Scranton Democrat said.

The chemicals are used for a variety of purposes, including making waterproof cosmetics, stain-resistant fabrics and carpeting to non-stick cookware. They’re also used in fire-fighting foam at military installations, leading to contamination at scores of military bases, including an air station in suburban Philadelphia.

The chemicals pose a significant public health risk. They’ve been linked to cancer and other serious health problems, the Capital-Star reported in 2020.

Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Sens. John Fetterman (L) and Bob Casey (R) | Capital-Star photo collage by John L. Micek

On Monday, the Biden administration announced it was releasing a total of $2 billion in funding through the infrastructure law to clean up drinking water across the country.

The funding for Pennsylvania and other states comes through the EPA’s “Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities” grant program.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan made the announcement during a roundtable in Maysville, N.C. on Tuesday that included local and state leaders from the Tar Heel State, NC PolicyWatch, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, reported.

“Small communities have always been the backbone of nation,” Regan said. “We’re going as far and as fast as we can.”

PFAS can’t be removed from drinking water using traditional treatment methods, according to NC PolicyWatch.

That means the grant money is critical for small public utilities, which can’t afford the millions of dollars to install advanced systems, such as granular activated carbon and reverse osmosis.

Elizabeth Biser, secretary of NC Department of Environmental Quality, and EPA Administrator Michael Regan spoke in Maysville about new funding for small utilities to address PFAS contamination in their drinking water. (Photo: Lisa Sorg/NC PolicyWatch)
Elizabeth Biser, secretary of NC Department of Environmental Quality, and EPA Administrator Michael Regan spoke in Maysville about new funding for small utilities to address PFAS contamination in their drinking water. (Photo: Lisa Sorg/NC PolicyWatch)

The federal law sets aside $5 billion over five years to help communities that are on the frontlines of PFAS contamination reduce PFAS in drinking water, the White House said in its statement.

The initial allocation of $2 billion to states and territories “can be used to prioritize infrastructure and source water treatment for pollutants, like PFAS and other emerging contaminants, and to conduct water quality testing,” according to the administration.

“Clean drinking water is a human right, and the Biden administration’s allocation of funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to address ‘forever chemicals’ in Pennsylvania’s drinking water is a massive step forward,” Fetterman said in the joint statement.

“These chemicals are a major threat to our community’s health and safety, and we’re going to keep working towards ensuring clean drinking water for all,” Fetterman said.

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