Portman: We Need to Accelerate Research to Ensure Coordinated, Effective Federal Effort to Address and Minimize PFAS Contamination

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, delivered opening remarks at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to examine the federal government’s efforts to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination. Portman expressed his concern about the potential impact of PFAS contamination on the health of his constituents in Ohio and communities across the United States and highlighted the importance of accelerating PFAS research to help ensure a coordinated, effective federal effort to address and minimize PFAS contamination. 

The bipartisan infrastructure bill provides $54 billion for water infrastructure investments across the country.  This includes $23.4 billion for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds, $15 billion for lead pipe remediation, and $10 billion to address PFAS in drinking water.  This funding will help support ongoing efforts by states like Ohio to address PFAS contamination.

A transcript of the opening statement can be found below and a video can be found here.

“Thank you Chairman Peters. I’m going to make a few brief comments and then I would like to introduce one of our witness in the second panel. I know this has run a little longer than people expected so we’ll move quickly here. 

“We’ve talked about today there are more than 4,700 identified PFAS chemicals, and these chemicals have been around for a long time, since the 1940s. Found in everything from fire-fighting foams to food wrappers to cleaning products, and even clothing. They have been used in manufacturing for decades to make products that are resistant to heat, oil, stains, grease, and water.  

“With increasing awareness of potential PFAS exposures – particularly from drinking water systems – I share the concerns of a lot of my constituents in the state of Ohio and in communities across the country about the impact PFAS contamination has on their health and the health of their families. 

“In 2016, the EPA established lifetime drinking water health advisory levels for two of the most prevalent and widely-researched PFAS chemicals – PFOA and PFOS – based on scientific studies that indicated exposure could result in adverse health effects. Although these chemicals were voluntarily phased out of production in the United States, their persistence in the environment remains a serious cause for concern, including, in our case, at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base. 

“According to the CDC, NIH, and EPA, research is still ongoing regarding the impacts exposure to PFAS chemicals can have on human health. As I talked about earlier, we need to move up this research, accelerate it as quickly as possible. It will help ensure that we have a coordinated, effective federal effort to address and minimize PFAS contamination – so we know the scope of the problem so we can better provide our communities with accurate information if risks are present. As we consider new options for addressing PFAS through policy and regulation, it is imperative that our approach be informed by science and by evidence. 

“It is equally important that the federal government maintain strong partnerships with our state and local actors who are the first line of defense with regard to all health hazards in our communities. To that end, I am pleased that our bipartisan infrastructure legislation that is now law provides an historic commitment to strengthen and upgrade our nation’s water infrastructure, including $10 billion to help states address PFAS in drinking water.  

“Talking about the states, I’m pleased to introduce one of our witnesses on the second panel. Mark Johnson from Ohio EPA is with us. Mark is the Deputy Director of Business and Regulatory Affairs and has been an instrumental figure behind the state of Ohio’s efforts I talked about earlier to develop and implement a state-wide action plan on PFAS. Ohio has taken an effective approach, in my view, to identifying and helping to address PFAS contamination within the state. Mark will bring a valuable perspective to our hearing today. We look forward to hearing from you, Mark. Thank you for joining us.”