To the editor: One the state’s major issues that was not fixed during the past regular session of the Legislature is the water quality and public health crisis caused by PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination. PFAS contaminate the drinking water of thousands of people in Alaska because of the dispersive use of PFAS in firefighting foams used on airports and military bases. Several lakes have been closed to fishing because of PFAS contamination. There are many more sites of known or suspected PFAS contamination that have not been tested. These “forever chemicals” are dangerous substances that do not break down and cause a range of adverse health effects including cancers, immune system suppression and reproductive disorders.
The Legislature failed to act on bills that address the PFAS problem, House Bill 121 and Senate Bill 171. These set enforceable drinking water standards, requirements for polluters to pay for safe drinking water and prevent further harm. Safe alternatives are readily available. Taxpayers are shouldering the burden of clean up and ultimately the health costs caused by PFAS. In Alaska, costs of PFAS remediation have already exceeded 22 million dollars and this is likely to run into the billions.
Legislators should consider the costs of inaction to health and livelihoods of Alaskans now and in the future. Policymakers in Michigan failed to take action to prevent lead poisoning, resulting in devastating harm to generations of children. We should learn from their mistakes. There is no excuse for policymakers not to take immediate action on PFAS.