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Senators Hassan, Shaheen Emphasize Importance of Combating PFAS Contamination at First-Ever Senate Hearing on PFAS

WASHINGTON - Senator Maggie Hassan, as a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), today participated in the first-ever Senate hearing on the contamination of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. Senator Jeanne Shaheen also joined the committee today to question witnesses and highlight the importance of combating PFAS contamination.  

Senator Hassan introduced witness Andrea Amico, a Portsmouth resident and co-founder of Testing for Pease. Senator Hassan pushed the committee to allow Andrea to testify due to her extensive knowledge on the issue and advocacy work on behalf of the Pease community. Prior to the hearing, Senator Hassan also met with advocates from Merrimack about the issue.

“I commend advocates in New Hampshire and around the country who have been fighting tirelessly to protect the health and well-being of their friends and neighbors impacted by PFAS contamination in their drinking water,” Senator Hassan said. “I also thank these advocates for taking the time to meet with me and my colleagues today to discuss how PFAS contamination is affecting their communities. This first-ever Senate hearing on PFAS contamination was critical and long overdue, and I’ll keep fighting to ensure that no Granite Stater or American has to question the safety or quality of their drinking water again.”

“Safe and clean drinking water is essential to the health and well-being of every person, and today’s hearing was an important step for highlighting the need to address unregulated contaminants, including PFAS, in our water supplies,” said Senator Shaheen. “Families across New Hampshire and the country are urgently seeking answers regarding the health effects from exposure to these contaminants. That’s why I remain so concerned about these challenges, and why I have worked across the aisle to secure funding to confront the PFAS contamination in our water supplies. I am very appreciative of the witnesses and attendees of today’s hearing for shining a light on this subject, including Andrea Amico, who has been one of the most fervent advocates for research on PFAS contamination in New Hampshire. I’ll keep fighting for funding to better understand and combat these unregulated contaminants, and I urge Congress to continue to highlight this issue on behalf of every impacted community.”

Senators Hassan and Shaheen questioned the witnesses about how the National Institute of Health is coordinating with other federal agencies to develop toxicological reports on PFAS chemicals and what technologies exist to ensure safe drinking water from private wells. Additionally, Senator Hassan pushed the Department of Defense on its moral obligation to take ownership and respond to PFAS contamination on their bases and in the drinking water of surrounding communities. Senator Shaheen also urged the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to research the potential link between PFAS contamination and cancer, which has been a serious concern to New Hampshire residents, particularly in response to a July report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicating that between 2003 and 2014, New Hampshire had the highest rates of pediatric cancer in the country. The Senators also submitted constituent letters for the record that tell the personal stories of those impacted by PFAS contamination in the hope that it can provide a resource for those who want to learn more about the harsh truth of these dangerous chemicals.

“I will never stop worrying about the health of my children and I will forever live with the guilt that I unknowingly sent them to a daycare where they drank contaminated water,” Andrea Amico, co-founder of Testing for Pease said. “At times, the worry and guilt is consuming and I don't sleep much at night. However, I have tried really hard to channel this negative energy into something positive through my advocacy work because I feel strongly that families like mine deserve access to blood testing, medical monitoring, health study opportunities, clean water, remediation to remove these chemicals from the environment, and more answers to what the long term health impacts are given PFAS exposure.”

Ms. Amico added, “Senator Hassan and Senator Shaheen have worked very hard from early on when the PFAS was discovered at Pease and our community is extremely grateful for their support, hard work, and continued leadership on this very important issue.”

Senators Hassan and Shaheen have prioritized efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects of emerging contaminants in water supplies. In the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Shaheen established the first-ever nationwide health study on the impacts of PFAS in drinking water, as well as funding for the study in the government funding bill that was signed into law in March. In the annual defense bill that was signed into law in August, Shaheen successfully authorized $10 million for the second year of the study, as well as its funding in government spending legislation for fiscal year 2019. Because of Shaheen’s efforts, the Pease International Tradeport will serve as the model site for the nationwide PFAS health study. Shaheen also procured $134 million in last week’s appropriations bill for PFAS remediation in contaminated drinking water supplies across the nation. Additionally, the final legislation includes $45 million for aqueous firefighting foam replacement and disposal, and PFAS investigation and mitigation on military bases. 

In August, Senators Hassan and Shaheen introduced bipartisan legislation, the PFAS Accountability Act, that holds federal agencies accountable for addressing contamination from PFAS at military bases across the country. Additionally, the Senators joined a letter sent by the New Hampshire delegation to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to request that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) take additional steps to assess PFAS contamination in the Merrimack area of Southern New Hampshire. In April, Shaheen introduced the bipartisan PFAS Registry Act, which would create a national database for service members and veterans experiencing health problems potentially due to PFAS exposure. The bill would allow military personnel and veterans to receive updates on recent scientific developments on the effects of PFAS exposure and information on what resources may be available to address their health concerns. Senator Hassan also co-sponsored a bill that eventually led then-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt to announce the EPA will consider setting a maximum contaminant level allowed in drinking water for PFAS chemicals.