March 30, 2016

Water Woes Spread in the House

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Alyssa Schuren testifies in the House Committee on Fish, Wildlife & Water Resources.

Alyssa Schuren testifies in the House Committee on Fish, Wildlife & Water Resources.

Montpelier (March 30) – PFOA is now present in one district of the Pownal municipal water supply, which serves about 450 people.

Discussions of water quality issues facing the state continue to percolate through the House Committee on Fish, Wildlife & Water Resources this week.

Discovery of contamination of the public water supply in Pownal, VT has raised broader concerns in the Statehouse regarding the safety measures in place to protect Vermont residents from contaminated drinking water supplies. This concern is amplified in light of the recent detection of PFOA contaminants in over 100 wells in neighboring North Bennington, VT.

As stated by Alyssa Schuren, Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Environmental Conservation, “we’re doing what is [federally] required of us, but we are asking the question, could we be doing more? What should we be doing differently?”

At the federal level, chemical contaminants are regulated by the Toxic Substances Control Act, which places the responsibility to determine the safety of any newly developed chemical on the Environmental Protection Agency. It is not required that developer test the chemical’s safety in humans and the environment. If the EPA fails to make a determination within 90 days, the chemical is freely released onto the market without assurance that it is not a threat to public health.

The Committee agrees that while there are significant and urgent concerns within the state, there is also a great need to reform federal legislation regarding the testing and release of chemicals into the marketplace.

Regarding recommendations for state level action on water issues, Schuren suggested a focus on improving state infrastructure for water distribution, allocating funds to train and pay water service operators throughout the state, most of whom are currently volunteers, and to put pressure on federal legislators to restructure the monitoring and regulation of pollutants and contaminants at a national level.

 

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