NACWA Testifies Before Congress on PFAS and Need for Polluter Pays Approach

Oct 7, 2021

Dr. Jim Pletl, Director of Water Quality for NACWA member utility the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD), testified this week on behalf of NACWA before the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee’s Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee on the issue of PFAS and other emerging contaminants.  The hearing was entitled Emerging Contaminants, Forever Chemicals, and More: Challenges to Water Quality, Public Health, and Communities.

Dr. Pletl’s testimony highlighted the need for Congress and EPA to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants through increased source control and a “polluter pays” approach.  He emphasized the importance of ensuring a greater risk-based scientific understanding of these chemicals to guide legislative and regulatory policy development and ensure the costs to public utilities for treating and removing PFAS does not fall unfairly on the backs of ratepayers.

Subcommittee Chairwoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA) highlighted in her opening remarks how “[m]any of the discharges being discussed today come at an extremely high cost to local water treatment plants forced to bear the costs of removal.” In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Ranking Member David Rouzer (R-NC) highlighted the “need to ensure any regulatory actions or requirements are backed by science and done thoughtfully to protect communities and reduce risks”. 

Rouzer also noted that “our water and wastewater utilities face the prospect of significant liability based on how they deal with these substances even though they did not create them. The options before them are expensive, which can become a great burden for many communities and their ratepayers.  As our government moves forward to address PFAS, it is essential we keep in mind the need for further information on PFAS and the economic impacts of clean-up on communities.”

During the hearing, several committee members and witnesses, including Plelt, discussed the importance of further utilizing or expanding authorities under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to address PFAS chemicals and other emerging contaminants before they come to market. 

Dr. Pletl’s message to Capitol Hill during the hearing further builds on NACWA’s long-standing support of a “polluter pays” model to address PFAS, as well as NACWA’s position that public clean water utilities stand ready to do their part to ensure public health and environmental protection through the application of thorough, risk-based science.

In line with that message, NACWA sent up a support letter and a corresponding considerations document to the T&I Committee that outlines the Associations position on key legislative PFAS provisions currently being considered by Congress under Clean Water Act (CWA) authorities. 

NACWA thanks Dr. Pletl and HRSD for their time and willingness to testify on behalf of the Association regarding this important and timely issue.  NACWA also thanks the committee for the opportunity to provide testimony. A recording of the full hearing and links to all the witness testimony can be found here.

Members with any questions about this week’s hearing or NACWA’s PFAS legislative efforts can contact Jason Isakovic or Kristina Surfus

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