Governor Scott signed a landmark bill on Thursday establishing drinking water standards for five perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – toxic chemicals that have been widely used in industry and consumer products since the 1950s. Known as “forever chemicals” because of their long lifespan, PFAS have been shown to increase cancer risk, impair immune system functioning, and negatively impact fertility, hormone health, and early childhood growth and development.
“There is no question that these ubiquitous toxics are harming Vermont’s streams, rivers, lakes and ponds and the threat posed by these chemicals must be addressed.” said Jon Groveman, Policy and Water Program Director for the Vermont Natural Resources Council.
PFAS have come under growing public scrutiny over the past few years as reports have revealed their presence in public and private water supplies across the state, including in more than 400 drinking water wells in Bennington County as well as in a drinking water supply for Grafton Elementary school.
“Vermonters shouldn’t have to wonder if they’re being poisoned every time they turn on their tap,” said Jen Duggan, Vice President and Director of CLF Vermont. “Until the federal government wakes up and takes these toxic chemicals off the market, it’s up to states to protect us. This law is a huge first step in ensuring Vermonters have safe, clean drinking water.”
S.49 works to address the impact of PFAS chemicals on surface and drinking water statewide by instituting comprehensive testing for PFAS at public water systems, requiring a statewide investigation of PFAS sources, evaluating the regulation of PFAS as a class or subclasses, and providing the Agency of Natural Resources with additional tools to protect Vermonters from contaminated water sources.
“By passing this law, Vermont is saying: enough is enough,” said Shaina Kasper, Vermont and New Hampshire State Director of Toxics Action Center. “Toxics don’t belong in our water, and this law is the first step in getting them out.”