Portman, Shaheen Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Boost EPA Response to Protect Drinking Water Supplies from Harmful Contaminants

Legislation Provides Federal Resources and Support to States Like Ohio and New Hampshire that are Dealing with Drinking Water Contamination

May 1, 2019 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to improve federal efforts to identify the public health effects of emerging contaminants such as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and cyanotoxins, which contribute to harmful algal blooms. These potentially harmful and unregulated materials are increasingly being detected in drinking water across the country, including in Ohio and New Hampshire. 


The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act would address barriers that limit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) response to emerging contaminants. 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.


“The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act will improve federal efforts to identify the health impacts of unregulated contaminants found in our drinking water sources, such as cyanotoxins, which contribute to the harmful algal blooms found on Lake Erie and in water bodies throughout Ohio,” 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. We must ensure that our drinking water remains safe for all Ohioans, and this legislation will help do just that.”


“No parent in this country should ever be in a position where they have to worry about the safety of their children’s drinking water. Unfortunately, that is an alarming reality that too many families are forced to endure,” said Shaheen. “PFAS contamination has impacted our communities in New Hampshire and many more across the country – it is a national concern that requires a strong federal response, which is precisely what my bipartisan bill will do. Ensuring transparency and accountability at every level of government to keep our water supplies clean is a bipartisan priority, and I’m glad to have Senator Portman’s help on this important cause. I encourage Senators on both sides of the aisle to join us in this effort.”


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.


Text of the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act can be found here and more information on the bill can be found here. The bill is supported by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the National Ground Water Association and the Water Quality Association.