ST PAUL, MN – Clean Water Action and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) have partnered to submit a public comment to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in support of setting safe drinking water limits on six types of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a class of more than 12,000 chemicals that bioaccumulate and do not break down naturally, causing them to be referred to as “forever chemicals.”
There are currently no federally enforceable standards on any PFAS for drinking water.
The comment focused on the human toll exposure to PFAS has in terms of financial cost and health impacts. It shared personal stories including that of Amara Strande, a young woman who testified in Minnesota in support of the PFAS Prevention Package, which banned the non-essential use of PFAS in consumer products sold in Minnesota. Strande spent the last months of her life with terminal cancer testifying in front of both House and Senate committees, sharing her experience of knowing she would die from a cancer she felt she developed because she lived and attended school in the 3M plume area in the east metro.
The comment also makes clear the unique perspective Minnesota has to offer on this issue given the chemicals’ origin in our state: “Minnesota, home to 3M and one of the country’s largest groundwater PFAS plumes, offers compelling lessons for EPA to cite in support of adopting the proposed drinking water limits. The alarming rate of rare cancers among students at one east Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area (the “East Metro”) school and similar stories of trauma caused by contaminated drinking water lend credit to EPA’s determination that the human health benefits of the proposed MCLs eclipse the costs of compliance. Moreover, the repeated and dramatic changes in Minnesota’s PFAS drinking water regulation cements the need for swift and strict action to protect America’s public water supplies from these insidious chemicals,” the comment states.
Avonna Starck, Minnesota State Director of Clean Water Action, said: “I am thrilled to once again partner with MCEA in this important work. Contaminated and dangerous water impacts us all, regardless of our income, where we live or work, or how we vote. It’s vital we tell the human story of the impact this pollution has on our friends, family, and neighbors. We must continue to take meaningful action to reduce PFAS in our drinking water, clean up existing contamination, and stop future "forever chemical" pollution at the source.”
Heidi Guenther, Attorney & Legal Fellow at MCEA, said: “While we have successfully taken steps to turn off the tap here in Minnesota through the recently passed legislative ban, we now need to work with the tools that we have to clean up the PFAS already in our waters. This is an important first step in that process. EPA’s determination that these contaminants are ‘likely carcinogenic’ is a big step in recognizing what Minnesotans have already known—PFAS has a human toll. There is much more work to be done and the voices of Minnesotans are helping make that happen.”
The EPA’s National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) would establish legally enforceable maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) of 4 parts per trillion and health based, not legally enforceable contaminant level goals for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA, commonly known as GenX Chemicals), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS).
Once the NPDWR is finalized, the MCLs will become enforceable standards by the end of 2026, meaning that every public water system in the county must monitor for PFAS and ensure that its drinking water meets the new EPA standards. This is a significant and connected step in the ongoing fight against PFAS, and it will ensure that nearly all PFAS are removed from our drinking water supplies. It also dovetails with the powerful legislation the Minnesota Legislature passed this session that will stem the flow of new PFAS into the environment. Since PFAS are incredibly difficult and expensive to eradicate from the environment, source reduction measures are essential tools to protect the environment and public health from these toxic chemicals. Once the lowered drinking water standard is in effect, Minnesotan’s efforts to eradicate PFAS will be buoyed by both significant legislative and regulatory action that will both stop the flow of new PFAS into the environment and ensure that the existing PFAS pollution does not continue to impair our drinking water.
Clean Water Action and MCEA have committed to continuing their PFAS legislative agenda for the next Minnesota legislative session, which begins in February of 2024.
About Clean Water Action
Clean Water Action works at the national, state and local level to develop strong, community-based environmental leadership and bring together diverse constituencies to work cooperatively for policies that improve lives and protect water. Clean Water Action has been in Minnesota since 1982, focused on finding solutions to health, consumer, environmental and community problems and working to protect our water and our people. Learn more at www.cleanwater.org/MN
About the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
For nearly half a century, MCEA has worked to enact and enforce smart environmental laws in Minnesota. With offices in St. Paul and Duluth and a team that includes some of the state's foremost environmental law and policy professionals, MCEA educates about issues and supports communities in their fight to protect their environment. MCEA is unique in Minnesota in its use of top legal expertise in the pursuit of environmental justice. For more information, visit www.MNcenter.org
In Her Own Words: Amara Strande
"Through no fault of my own, I was exposed to these toxic chemicals. And as a result, I will die with this cancer." https://cleanwater.org/2023/01/25/MN-PFAS-Amara-Strande
In Memory of Amara https://cleanwater.org/2023/04/17/memory-amara
In His Own Words: Ben Rule
"Nobody deserves to go through what I did. We all deserve clean water and good health." https://cleanwater.org/2023/01/25/MN-PFAS-Benjamin-Rule
In His Own Words: Derek Lowen
"3M poisoned our water to save a buck or two" https://cleanwater.org/2023/02/16/MN-PFAS-Derek-Lowen
Minnesota May 9th Press Conference: Statement and Video "Minnesota PFAS Legislation Takes Ones Step Closer To Becoming Law" https://cleanwater.org/releases/minnesota-pfas-legislation-takes-one-step-closer-becoming-law
From Clean Water Action National Campaigns Director, Lynn Thorp "PFAS Chemicals: Why You Should Weigh in on Drinking Water Limits and Why This is Not Enough" https://cleanwater.org/2023/05/23/pfas-chemicals-why-you-should-weigh-drinking-water-limits-and-why-not-enough
Preventing PFAS Pollution https://cleanwater.org/campaign/preventing-pfas-pollution