3 States Enforce Own Water Regulations Against "Forever Chemicals" After EPA Failure

August 12, 2020

River Running Through a Forest

One of President Trump’s beliefs is that the United States has too many federal regulations. He says, “American workers were smothered by a merciless avalanche of wasteful and expensive and intrusive federal regulation.” It appears as though the President’s goal is to increase productivity and business in every way possible. However, in an increasingly apocalyptic world where we are trying to fight off climate crisis and a pandemic, this hurts the people more than it helps businesses. There have been rollbacks of regulations that protect our environment, a lack of regulation to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19, and an EPA that is no longer regulating our drinking water to ensure it is safe for our consumption.

At the end of June, I wrote about the latest EPA rollback, which would allow perchlorate, a chemical found in rocket fuel, to be unregulated in our drinking water. Since then, several states have stepped up to create state regulations to protect their people since the federal government is no longer showing the same concern. Colorado, Michigan, and New York are the states in question. The chemicals that are being tackled by these states are PFAS—or polyfluorolalkyl substances. These substances are more commonly known as “forever chemicals.” They are called such due to the substances’ extreme resistance to heat, water, and oil, making them virtually impossible to destroy. PFAS are used in non-stick cookware, furniture, food packaging, water, and stain-resistant clothing, carpets, and cosmetics. These chemicals are so prevalent and withstanding that traces have been found in 99% of Americans’ bloodstreams.

“So what’s the problem then?” you ask. Forever chemicals are linked with reproductive issues, weakened immune systems (not great during a pandemic), endocrine disruption, birth defects, various forms of cancer, and more. The federal government provided no regulation of these chemicals in products or in our drinking water. In fact, the Trump administration suppressed an EPA report discussing how current limits do not take the risk of these chemicals seriously. Due to the lack of regulation, a few states have taken regulation of PFAS into their own hands. In Colorado, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission unanimously voted to add new regulations to limit the PFAS in the water and push manufacturers to clean up the substances. Michigan is now regulating seven PFAS—more than any other state. And New York enacted a new policy that requires all public water providers to test for these chemicals.

If you live in a state that is not one of three mentioned, there is good news. With less and less federal involvement in regulation and enforcement for the people’s safety, more states have started to take on these tasks themselves. California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia joined together to create new regulations to tackle wildfires along the West coast. States are doing the same amidst the pandemic. With no national testing strategy, Maryland, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia joined together to purchase 3 million rapid Coronavirus tests to protect their people during the pandemic.

Continue speaking up for clean water. Contact your state’s governor. Email and call your senator. Even if you have access to clean water, don’t forget that many other people in your state may not have the same access. Often the BIPOC communities are most affected. We must all fight to have all voices heard and get clean water throughout the nation and not just in the affluent areas.

Also by Iga: Esselen Tribe Reclaims Big Sur To Become Stewards Of Their Land

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Photo: Luca Bravo on Unsplash

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Iga is a freelance writer based in Colorado, but originally from Poland. She follows the vegan, sustainability and zero-waste movements while trying to live a practical lifestyle! When she’s not writing she likes to practice yoga, read, play with her dogs and just be outside in nature. You can find more of her work at her website www.igashmiga.com.

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