Last week, AMWA wrote to the leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee to provide formal feedback on draft PFAS legislation the committee circulated last month. The committee had asked for feedback from stakeholders and the public by last Friday, with the goal of marking up the legislation later this month, although that timeline could change.
AMWA’s comments, developed in consultation with the association’s Legislative Committee, largely focus on the draft bill’s absence of provisions to protect drinking water systems from liability under CERCLA related to PFAS that have been removed from drinking water supplies. For months, AMWA has advocated for a targeted CERCLA liability shield for drinking water systems that properly dispose of water treatment byproducts containing PFAS. This is to ensure that the actual polluters and entities that introduced the chemicals into the environment cannot shift the cleanup costs to water system ratepayers.
“In the case of drinking water systems, the absence of [CERCLA liability] protections could force ratepayers to pay twice to clean up the pollution of others,” AMWA wrote to the EPW Committee. “Once when PFAS is filtered out of source waters, and again potentially years later should the ultimate disposal site of the PFAS contamination become subject to a cleanup under CERCLA.”
In May, Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) introduced AMWA-supported legislation to provide these liability protections to drinking water and wastewater systems, and AMWA has called for this measure to be incorporated into the larger PFAS bill. However, in its letter to the EPW Committee, the association also suggested alternative language to shield water systems and other appropriate “passive receivers” from unfairly incurring PFAS cleanup costs.
“The bottom line is that if a community water system acts responsibly in removing PFAS from drinking water and disposing of the treatment byproducts, its ratepayers should not face additional environmental cleanup costs years or decades in the future,” the association wrote. “AMWA believes it is essential that this principle protecting passive receivers be reflected in any PFAS legislation reported out of the Environment and Public Works Committee.”
Aside from the CERCLA issue, AMWA’s letter also commented on the need to increase lab capacity for PFAS screening, the definition of PFAS, the legislation’s proposed deadline for EPA to finalize a maximum contaminant level for PFOA, PFOS, and several other PFAS, and a proposal to allow states to set aside a portion of SRF funding to create registries of PFAS users and producers.
Last week, AMWA also added its name to a coalition letter alongside other water sector organizations that collectively urged the EPW Committee to incorporate CERCLA liability protections into any PFAS legislation it considers. While the committee had initially aimed to markup the legislation by the end of this month, recent indications from committee staff suggest that formal consideration of the bill may be postponed until the fall.