Stricter PFAS limits set to safeguard New Hampshire’s drinking water

President Biden's new EPA PFAS limits, coupled with NH House Bill 1649, set a historic standard for cleaner drinking water and safer consumer products in New Hampshire. Discover the significant changes ahead for Granite Staters. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

By Colin Booth

April 17, 2024

The Biden administration announced last week that, for the first time ever, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would begin to regulate a class of synthetic chemicals known as “forever chemicals” in America’s drinking water.

This comes just as the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to pass Democratic bill HB 1649, prohibiting the sale of select products that contain PFAS, such as food packages, children’s products, cosmetics, and carpets.

These stringent new limits on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—commonly referred to as “forever chemicals”—in the nation’s drinking water aim to significantly reduce these harmful contaminants to the lowest detectable levels, a change expected to impact the water quality for nearly 100 million Americans and prevent thousands of related illnesses, including various forms of cancer.

The EPA under President Joe Biden has been actively working to counteract the widespread issue of PFAS contamination—a problem that has persisted and escalated over several administrations. This latest announcement is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s comprehensive PFAS Strategic Roadmap, which prioritizes substantial reductions in public exposure to these chemicals.

Democratic Leader Pro Tempore, Rep. Karen Ebel (D-New London), prime sponsor of HB 1649, said the new regulations were urgently needed given the threats PFAS represents to the health of Granite Staters.

“This directive serves as another urgent reminder of the severe hazards associated with this chemical family, as PFAS has been associated with liver problems, thyroid issues, kidney disease, decreased immunity, maternal health hazards, and cancer… Now is the time to take a strong stand. These forever chemicals should not be in the air we breathe, the water we drink, or in the soil we walk on.”

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New Hampshire state Rep. Wendy Thomas, who has been affected personally by PFAS, praised the administration’s efforts.

“President Biden’s leadership has catalyzed the establishment of national standards for PFAS in drinking water, marking a monumental step forward not just for New Hampshire but for the entire country,” Thomas said. “This action will undoubtedly save lives and corrects the failures of past administrations to protect our most vital resource.”

In contrast to Biden’s proactive measures, the Trump administration was criticized for its environmental policies, which included approving new PFAS compounds and attempting to block scientific studies highlighting their dangers. Additionally, significant budget cuts proposed by former President Donald Trump threatened to reduce research into PFAS and undermined efforts to regulate them effectively in drinking water systems.

To further support these new standards, EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced the allocation of nearly $1 billion in grants through the Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities Grant Program. This funding is set to assist in the initial testing and treatment of PFAS contamination in public water systems and privately owned wells.

Mindi Messmer, a community leader and public health scientist, highlighted the stark differences in administration policies.

“The Trump administration’s disregard for scientific advice and regulatory compliance endangered public health, particularly here in New Hampshire,” Messmer noted. “Thanks to President Biden’s decisive action, we now have a clear path forward to ensuring our communities have access to safe drinking water.”

The Biden administration’s proactive stance on tackling PFAS pollution through enforceable national standards reflects a significant policy shift towards prioritizing public health and environmental safety over industrial interests, setting a new precedent for future environmental governance.

Republican New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has opposed the measure, saying the regulations are too stringent, telling WMUR, “Maybe they look good on paper, but they’re unreasonable. They’re unattainable in many ways,” he said. “There’s a question not just of the science behind it but the hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars it would take to even try to attain the levels they’re pushing.”

Author

  • Colin Booth

    Based in Epsom, Colin Booth is Granite Post's political correspondent. A Granite State native and veteran political professional with a deep background in journalism, he's worked on campaigns and programs in battleground states across the country, ranging from New Hampshire, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

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