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Environment & Climate Change

$10 billion in bipartisan infrastructure bill would go to PFAS cleanup

PFAS foam on the Huron River.
Lester Graham
/
Michigan Radio

The bipartisan federal infrastructure bill, that senators finished writing this past weekend, would include $10 billion for PFAS cleanup.

PFAS—or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—are a family of chemicals often called "forever chemicals" because they can persist in the environment for centuries. Exposure to certain kinds of PFAS has been linked to impaired immune systems and increased risk of some kinds of cancer.

Of the ten billion dollars, $5 billion is dedicated to help small and disadvantaged communities address PFAS in drinking water. Another $4 billion is for helping drinking water utilities remove PFAS from drinking water supplies, as well as connecting well owners to local water systems. The remaining $1 billion would help wastewater utilities address PFAS in wastewater discharges.

David Andrews is a senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group. He said $10 billion is an incredible investment focused particularly on drinking water.

"This is really a significant amount of funding to make a sizeable dent in terms of addressing what we know are some of the most contaminated sites across the country," he said.

In other actions taken at the federal level against PFAS, the U.S. House of Representatives recently approved the PFAS Action Act. The bill was introduced by Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) and also sponsored by Representatives Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), Dan Kildee (D-Flint), Haley Stevens (D-Rochester), Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit).

"[The PFAS Action Act] would designate PFOA and PFAS as hazardous substances and then require cleanup of contaminated sites, which would be especially important for cleaning up Department of Defense sites," said Andrews. He said this could benefit communities like Oscoda and its heavily contaminated site, the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

Andrews said Michigan is already at the forefront of setting drinking water standards for PFAS at the state level, something the Environmental Protection Agency has yet to do. The bill gives the EPA two years to set those standards.

"It would require discharge limits, and this is actually something that the state of Michigan has been really leading the states in terms of identifying the sources of contamination and putting limits on that effluent into streams," he said.

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