Wastewater plant compost

Compost is loaded and stockpiled beside the Golden Heart Utilities Wastewater Treatment Plant in this 2010 file photo. The utility has suspended sales of the compost due to concerns about possible PFAS contamination. Eric Engman/News-Miner

The U.S. House is set to take up another bill this week pertaining to the continued issue of PFAS contamination affecting areas across the nation. 

The bill would further tighten restrictions and regulations on the series of contaminants affecting ground water across Alaska and other states. 

The office of Rep. Don Young, Alaska’s only House member, issued a statement Wednesday noting Young’s attention to the issue but that the congressman was still reviewing the most recent act. 

“There is consensus that exposure to PFOS & PFOA poses risks to human health, and too many Alaskan communities, particularly those in close proximity to military installations, have faced challenges in remediating PFAS contamination. As a member of the Congressional PFAS Task Force, Congressman Young has been active on this issue, and was proud to support the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act,” Young spokesman Zack Brown wrote in an email to the Daily News-Miner. 

The NDAA included a military phase-out of PFAS-based firefighting foams often used on bases across Alaska as well as increased monitoring of PFAS chemicals in other areas. 

“Congressman Young is currently review H.R. 535 and looks forward to the floor debate this week,” Brown wrote Wednesday. 

PFAS, known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a category of human-made chemicals that repel water and grease and are found in products such as nonstick pans and raincoats. 

The bill addresses many of the same concerns that provisions in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, recently signed into law by President Trump. But the House bill takes many of those provisions a step further, tightening EPA regulations on the compounds and urging a more hasty response in outlawing several of the compounds.

Some of the key points outlined in the bill include:

• Designating PFOA and PFOS as “hazardous substances,” thus kick-starting clean-up efforts at many of the currently contaminated sites across the country, holding PFAS polluters responsible for a portion of the clean up. 

• Requiring the EPA to swiftly decide whether or not other PFAS chemical variants should also be designated as hazardous substances.

• Restricting industrial PFAS releases into the air and water.

•Requiring the EPA to set PFAS drinking water standards within the next two years and provide funding for PFAS water treatment efforts.

•Expanding the EPA’s Safer Choice program in an effort to help consumers avoid household products manufactured with PFAS.

• Creating and placing a moratorium on any new PFAS chemicals, requiring additional health studies to determine possible dangers.

 A Senate version of the bill was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators in February. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski was among those cosponsoring the bill. 

“While the studies surrounding the effects of PFAS are ongoing, emerging findings indicate that these compounds are linked to a number of adverse human health effects,” Murkowski said at the time. “In Alaska, communities such as Utqiagvik, Fairbanks, Dillingham, and many others are currently responding to their groundwater having been contaminated with PFAS, largely due to the use of a fluorinated firefighting foam. This legislation is just one step in the effort to clean up our contaminated lands, but by listing PFAS as a hazardous substance the federal government will be able to coordinate response, assist with remediation, and hold responsible parties liable for clean-up costs.”

The Senate bill was introduced and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works but has not moved.

The House is expected to take up the bill either today or Friday. 

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.