Portman, Shaheen Bipartisan Bill to Boost EPA Response to PFAS Passes Out of Committee 

The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act Passed Committee in a Package of PFAS Legislation to Combat Exposure of the Hazardous Chemicals

June 19, 2019 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – This morning, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) passed a significant package of legislation aimed at combating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure, which includes a bipartisan bill authored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act would improve coordination across the federal government in identifying and responding to emerging contaminants like PFAS. The bill also expedites analysis of these chemicals and provides support and resources to states dealing with the health challenges posed by these potentially harmful materials. PFAS chemicals have emerged in drinking water sources in several communities across the nation, including New Hampshire and Ohio.

“We must ensure that our drinking water remains safe for all Ohioans, and I am pleased the committee approved this legislation today. The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act will improve federal efforts to identify the health impacts of unregulated contaminants found in our drinking water sources,” said Portman. “This legislation will help the federal government more efficiently and effectively analyze the impacts of, and respond to, emerging contaminants through greater coordination among federal agencies, and will provide states with the resources they need to monitor, test, and respond to potential risks posed by emerging contaminants.”

“PFAS exposure is a pervasive problem affecting water supplies in communities throughout New Hampshire and the nation, so I appreciate the bipartisan response to make combating these harmful chemicals a top priority,” said Shaheen. “Breaking down barriers that impede the Environmental Protection Agency from responding to PFAS exposure, and ensuring our local communities have the resources they need to safeguard their water supplies from contamination are important steps we need to take. I’m glad Republicans and Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Senate Committee agreed and included my bill with Senator Portman to meet these goals, as well as additional measures to establish urgently needed federal drinking water standards for PFAS. I’ll continue to work with members on both sides of the aisle to find a path forward and deliver this bill to the Senate floor for a vote.”

Portions of the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act were included in federal funding legislation signed into law for fiscal year 2018 to help identify research gaps to address the potential health implications associated with exposure to emerging contaminants. The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act builds off that work by establishing a national strategy to coordinate the federal response to emerging contaminants, and provide assistance to states in responding to these materials. Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Direct the EPA to create a program to provide federal support and technical assistance to communities that have detected emerging contaminants in their water supply.
  • Establish and maintain a comprehensive database of resources to assist states and water stakeholders with testing for emerging contaminants. 
  • Direct the EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services to convene an interagency working group to improve Federal efforts to identify and respond to emerging contaminants.
  • Direct the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop an interagency federal research strategy to improve the identification, analysis and treatment of emerging contaminants.

In June 2018, Senator Rob Portman was successful at demanding the administration release the results of a study regarding what levels of PFAS chemicals are safe in drinking water. He led a bipartisan group of 10 Senators highlighting news reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working to block the release of results from a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) study on the toxic Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).