EDITORIAL: After lagging behind state, feds aggressively ramp up efforts to protect drinking water

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It took six years after PFAS chemicals were discovered polluting the Hoosick Falls water supply for the state to take meaningful action to address the full scope of contaminants in our drinking water.

After that slow response, lawmakers ramped up quickly last June, approving a comprehensive bill (signed in December by Gov. Kathy Hochul) that requires the testing of 40 so-called emerging contaminants in every water supply in the state. Those 40 contaminants include 13 chemicals previously only tested in larger water systems and monitoring for 27 others. The list includes PFOAs.

The federal government has been lagging behind the state in its response to emerging contaminants, but now it also has taken a leap forward by announcing new water health advisories and new funding for states to address contamination issues.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday released four advisories on PFAS and invited states to apply for the first $1 billion (out of $5 billion) in grant funding to address PFAS contamination, particularly in small and disadvantaged communities.

The EPA also said it plans to announce new regulations regarding PFOA and PFOS chemicals in the fall.

Regarding the grant funding, available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the grants can be used in small or disadvantaged communities for “ technical assistance, water quality testing, contractor training, and installation of centralized treatment technologies and systems” to address problems with PFOAs and other emerging contaminants.”

The funding comes in addition to $3.4 billion available through the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) and $3.2 billion through the Clean Water SRFs. The latter fund can be used to address PFAS in water this year, the EPA stated.

The agency will be reaching out to states soon with information on how to prepare a letter of intent to participate in the grant program, and there is already information on the EPA website about it.

Visit: https://www.epa.gov/dwcapacity/emerging-contaminants-ec-small-or-disadvantaged-communities-grant-sdc.

Letters of intent are due by August 15, which is only 60 days from now. So if you’re an eligible municipality with a problem, you should get on it.

In addition to all that, federal agencies are also moving to expand testing in food, on farms (where it affects livestock) and on military bases, where PFOAs are used in firefighting and other operations.

After the state ramped up its efforts to address dangerous contaminants in the drinking supply, the federal government was slow to catch up. But it is now aggressively responding.

The health and safety of our citizens demands this kind of action.

This is a very positive step forward.

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