Pingree Legislation Aims to Ensure Safe Drinking Water as Mainers Grapple with Widespread PFAS Contamination
The Healthy H2O Act would provide grants for water testing and treatment technology to ensure ongoing protections from known and emerging water contaminants, like PFAS, lead, and nitrates
Washington, June 9, 2022
Today, U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and David Rouzer (R-N.C.) introduced The Healthy Drinking Water Affordability Act, or The Healthy H2O Act, to provide grants for water testing and treatment technology directly to individuals, non-profits, and local governments in rural communities. Water quality improvement systems installed at the faucet or within a building can provide immediate and ongoing protections from known and emerging water contaminants, like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), lead, and nitrates. The bicameral bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.).
“Maine is experiencing a ‘forever chemical’ crisis, with more contaminated sites identified regularly. We’re ahead of the curve when it comes to testing for PFAS, which unfortunately is a sign that the rest of the U.S. likely also has high levels of contamination – they just don’t know it yet. In fact, it’s estimated that just about every American has traces of PFAS chemicals in their system,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “The Healthy H2O Act will make testing and treatment technology more accessible so we can address contaminants in our water, and so our communities can be protected against these harmful chemicals.”
"For many years, PFAS contaminants were discharged into the Cape Fear River from industrial facilities upstream. Since then, the state as well as local governments have spent millions of dollars and countless hours working to remedy the situation. While I have continued to support legislative efforts to make PFAS a priority for the EPA, I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to help families and small businesses in our rural communities receive better support on addressing the dangers of PFAS contamination,” said Rep. Rouzer. “The Healthy H2O Act will help identify health-based contaminants in drinking water that may pose risks to health and the environment. By identifying these contaminants, our rural and underserved communities can then make progress to remedy the situation by utilizing grant funding to purchase and install cost effective water filtration systems. We need a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to combat and understand the risks of PFAS, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure families in Southeastern North Carolina have access to safe drinking water."
“Every Wisconsin community deserves access to clean drinking water and an environment free of toxic chemicals. Across our state, communities are struggling to identify and treat known and emerging chemicals that endanger our health, especially for children,” said Sen. Baldwin. “My legislation will cut costs and expand access to water testing and treatment for families in rural communities so that when we turn on the faucet, we can be confident our drinking water is safe.”
“We applaud Representatives Pingree and Rouzer for introducing the Healthy H2O Act that will increase access to safer drinking water in rural communities,” said Pauli Undesser, Executive Director of the Water Quality Association. “This grant program will help Americans who are most vulnerable to contaminants in their water supply – children, the elderly, and households that rely on private wells. By increasing access to testing and water filtration products, we can support the health and safety of these communities.”
“Rural communities in Maine, and throughout the country, have long struggled to receive the necessary support from D.C. to reliably access clean and safe drinking water,” said National Ground Water Association President-Elect and Maine resident Jason House. “The Healthy H2O Act will bring much needed resources to our rural communities and have a direct impact on the health of our families throughout the state and beyond. We couldn’t be more supportive of the legislation and we applaud Congresswoman Pingree for introducing this important bill.”
The Healthy H2O Act would provide grants for water quality testing and the purchase and installation of point-of-use or point-of-entry water quality improvement systems that remove or significantly reduce contaminants from drinking water. Grants would be provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) directly to individuals and to non-profits or local governments to help people go through the process of testing and then finding and installing a water treatment product to address their situation.
Across Maine and the U.S., communities face threats to their drinking water from a number of contaminants, including lead, arsenic, nitrates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), PFOA, PFOS, hexavalent chromium-6, and others. While public water systems monitor for these threats and treat water before it is distributed to points of use, nearly 43 million households, primarily in rural communities, rely exclusively on groundwater delivered through private wells for their drinking water. This water is not subject to the same regular oversight and testing for contamination as public water systems, which can delay identification of and response to health threats. The Healthy H20 Act will provide grants for rural communities to increase access to the many technologies for testing and water treatment at the point of use.
The Healthy H2O Act is supported by:
· The Water Quality Association
· National Groundwater Association
· Water Systems Council
· American Supply Association
· Water Council of Milwaukee
· Eastern Water Quality Association (EWQA)
· Pacific Water Quality Association (PWQA)
· Texas Water Quality Association (TWQA)
· Florida Water Quality Association (FWQA)
· Iowa Water Quality Association
· The Groundwater Foundation
· Water Well Trust
· California Ground Water Association
· Water Quality Association of Wisconsin
· Well Drillers Association of Wisconsin
· Ohio Water Quality Association (OWQA)
· Nebraska Well Drillers Association
· Nebraska On-Site Wastewater Association
· Nebraska State Irrigation Association
· Nebraska Water Leaders Academy
· NSF International
Pingree has long championed PFAS clean-up and clean drinking water legislation. She proudly supported the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included a $55 billion investment to replace lead service lines, $10 billion to address PFAS chemicals, and investments in water infrastructure across America, including in Tribal Nations and disadvantaged communities that need it most.
In March 2022, Pingree, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, and members of Maine’s Congressional Delegation urged U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to swiftly and fully utilize all USDA resources and authorities that can assist in responding to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination, which is increasingly impacting Maine famers and rural communities.
The following month in a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture hearing, Pingree underscored the widespread PFAS contamination in Maine and directly urged Secretary Vilsack to meet with Maine farmers and families affected.