WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will begin a national push for more stringent regulation, enforcement, and cleanup of the PFC chemicals found in the drinking water of the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority that led to a health advisory in 2016.
The EPA is holding a summit Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington, D.C. with representatives of 40 states – including Alabama – to discuss needs and planning to deal with the chemicals PFOA and PFOS.
The chemicals were used by companies like 3M in Decatur for decades in products like non-stick pan surfaces and Scotchgard. The chemicals don’t break down in water and the discharge and sediment from the Decatur plant has migrated into the Tennessee River, the source of drinking water for the WMEL Water Authority.
The chemicals have been linked to a number of health problems, including cancer.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said today dealing with the chemicals is a “national priority.”
Pruitt said the agency is considering establishing national legal limits in drinking water for the chemicals.
“Under the Safe Drinking Water Act process to evaluate the need of a maximum contaminant level for PFOA and PFOS,” he said.
The EPA is also considering having the chemicals labeled as a hazardous substance.
And, the work is just getting started, EPA officials vowed Tuesday.
“We’re currently developing groundwater cleanup recommendations for PFOS and PFAS at contaminated sites across the country,” Pruitt said. “And we’ll complete this task by the fall of this year.”
Residents in places like Lawrence County may soon get to tell their stories to EPA officials.
“We’re going to be traveling to communities across the country after the summit to hear directly from communities, from residents, from local elected officials to hear perspectives on these challenges,” said Peter Grevatt, director of EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water.
Gov. Kay Ivey’s office didn’t send a representative to the summit, but two employees from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management are attending.