South Carolina senators advance legislation on ‘forever’ chemicals in drinking water

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — A Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee listened to South Carolinians concerned about so-called “forever” chemicals in their drinking water.

The subcommittee was discussing S.219 Tuesday morning. The joint resolution would direct the Department of Health and Environmental Control to create regulations to establish maximum contaminant levels for certain pollutants in public water systems.

One of those contaminants is per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance, also known as PFAS. DHEC said it has been testing for the contaminant in public drinking water systems and at some private wells.

Right now, there are no federal drinking water standards for PFAS, but the U.S. EPA has indicated that it is working on establishing them and is studying the impact of PFAS.

“I’m concerned about my parents,” Michell Ruff said. “My mom and dad are in their upper 70s and 80s. And the cost of buying water and supplying water into their household gets expensive on a weekly basis.’’

According to DHEC, no water samples that the agency have tested so far in the state contain more than 70 parts per trillion of PFAS. The EPA has established a Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisory at 70 ppt.

Critics of the legislation, including business groups and water associations, say PFAS contamination is closely monitored and they’ll take steps to address problem areas. Lobbyist Earl Hunter said the state should wait on the EPA to establish a drinking water standard.

“With all due respect, we do not believe DHEC has the ability to develop MCLs for PFAS or other emerging contaminants,” Hunter told lawmakers, The federal government, specifically EPA and other agencies have the scientific capabilities to take on these challenges.”

Congaree Riverkeep Bill Stangler told lawmakers he would like to see state standards established.

“We can’t just assume this will happen quickly,” he said. “We can’t just expect the feds to swoop in and save us on this. We can take action ourselves.”

Lawmakers on the panel voted to amend the legislation to direct DHEC to continue studying and testing for PFAS in water. The legislation would also DHEC to use state funds to address water systems or wells having issues.

The joint resolution was sent to the full Senate Medical Affairs committee. For more information on PFAS sampling in South Carolina click or tap here.

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