News Feature | October 23, 2018

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Fail To Pass PFAS Bill

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

State lawmakers in Pennsylvania failed to pass legislation to address drinking water contamination last week in a sign of the difficulty of locating funding to clean up PFAS pollution.

“In one of the more dramatic days in Harrisburg in recent memory, lawmakers closed up legislative shop for the year voting down a bill seeking financial relief for local communities impacted by PFAS water contamination,” The Intelligencer reported.

October 17 “was the last scheduled voting session for the year, a day typically marked with intrigue about which bills will be picked from a backlog to get a vote before lawmakers head home to campaign. Big election years such as 2018 elevate the stakes, as both parties consider how votes or bills will be publicly perceived, the days slipping quickly toward November,” the report stated.

The drinking water bill may have been stalled due to these political concerns, the report stated.

The bill would have enabled state taxes generated locally to be redirected to communities that have been affected by water contamination due to military sites. The money could be diverted to filtration or clean-up.

The threat of PFAS contamination has become a high-profile issue in the wake of revelations that military bases and factories have contaminated the water supply with these chemicals in various parts of the country, including the Philadelphia suburbs.

“Tens of thousands of people in Horsham, Warminster, and Warrington Townships were among the first to learn that their drinking water was tainted, and scores have reported cases of cancer,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The Pennsylvania House managed to pass the PFAS legislation earlier in October. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens Horsham, one of the areas affected by military contamination, which is caused by foam used in firefighting exercises.

Since the contamination in the Philadelphia suburbs was discovered in 2014, funding to resolve the issue has been hard to come by.

“The military agreed to pay to filter water sources, but only those contaminated above an advisory level issued by the U.S. EPA. That created a funding gap that left the towns on the hook for millions of dollars in order to complete their non-detect plans,” The Bucks County Courier Times reported.