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House Passes Drinking Water Protection Act

The House unanimously passed House Bill 8, the Delaware Drinking Water Protection Act, yesterday. House Bill 8 requires the Division of Public Health, in collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to establish a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for PFAS chemicals perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).

PFAS chemicals have been used widely in consumer and industrial products since the 1940s, including in nonstick cookware, stain-resistant repellents used on carpets and fabric, paper and cardboard food packaging like fast food wrappers, firefighting foam, water-resistant textiles, and personal care products, such as dental floss. Due to their widespread use, vast travel throughout our environment, and difficulty to break down, PFAS – also known as “forever chemicals” – are now detected in the bodies of 99 percent of Americans.

However, there is no federal restriction or limit on this contaminant, leaving states to impose their own regulations.

PFAS chemicals have been found above the EPA’s Drinking Water Health Advisory levels in New Castle, Blades, Dover and other areas of the state. The chemicals have also been found in both private and public wells in Delaware, putting residents at risk. They have been linked to causing cancer, hormone disruption, liver and kidney damage, developmental and reproductive harm, changes in cholesterol levels, and immune system toxicity – some of which can occur at extremely low levels of exposure.

The Drinking Water Protection Act also requires the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Division of Public Health to conduct a statewide survey of PFAS in drinking water using standard laboratory methods for PFAS. By the beginning of 2022, DNREC would provide the results of that survey, along with a plan to address PFAS contaminations identified in the statewide survey.

Several states, including New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan and Vermont, have enacted regulatory standards for PFAS in drinking water.

HB 8 will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 8 SponsorsYes VotesNo Votes
Heffernan, Griffith, Longhurst, Bennett, K.Johnson, Minor-Brown, Baumbach, Bolden, Brady, Cooke, Lynn, Mitchell, Osienski, D.Short, Briggs King, GrayHouse Passes 41-0. Baumbach, Bennett, Bentz, Bolden, Brady, Bush, Carson, Chukwuocha, Cooke, Dorsey Walker, Griffith Heffernan K.Johnson K.Williams Kowalko Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Mitchell Morrison Osienski S.Moore Schwartzkopf Wilson-Anton Briggs King Bush Collins D.Short Dukes Gray Hensley M.Smith Morris Postles Ramone Shupe Smyk Spiegelman Vanderwende Yearick
Hansen, Paradee, Townsend, Sokola
Current Status — Senate Environment & Energy 4/29/21

“The contamination from PFAS chemicals in drinking water poses long-term health risks to Delawareans in all three counties,” said Rep. Heffernan, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee. “The time for Delaware to act is now. We must establish an MCL to ensure our citizens have safe and clean drinking water, free from PFAS contamination.”

“Imagine a chemical so pervasive that 95% of people already have it in their bodies. Imagine that chemical is linked to low birth weights, asthma, cancer and the effectiveness of vaccines like the ones being used to save lives across the country right now. That chemical is PFAS and this is the reality of every Delawarean right now. We are one of only a few states on the East Coast without an enforceable drinking water standard for this chemical,” said Sen. Stephanie Hansen, chair of the Senate Environment & Energy Committee and the lead Senate sponsor of HB 8. “Our families and our neighbors’ families deserve better. We need to take action today and I thank my colleague Rep. Heffernan for moving this bill forward to do just that.”

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