Pingree Legislation Aims to Ensure Safe Drinking Water as Mainers Grapple with Widespread PFAS Contamination
The bipartisan, bicameral 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, March 21, 2023
Today, on National Water Day, U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and David Rouzer (R-N.C.) reintroduced the Healthy Drinking Water Affordability Act, or the Healthy H2O Act, to provide grants for water testing and treatment technology directly to individuals and nonprofits 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 bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
“The Healthy H2O Act will make water testing and treatment technology more accessible in rural Maine and across the country, especially for those on private wells who may not know whether their water is safe,” said Pingree. “I’m grateful that the Biden Administration is pursuing the first-ever national drinking water standard for six different per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. We must augment these efforts by giving our communities the resources they need to identify and address harmful chemicals in their drinking water. My Healthy H2O Act will support testing and treatment technology, so Americans can be confident the water they are drinking is safe.”
“This past Congress, I was an original co-sponsor of The Healthy H2O Act. I am pleased to announce that we are introducing this legislation again. If enacted into law, this bill would help nonprofits and those with private wells identify health-based contaminants, such as GenX chemicals, as well as other PFAS and PFOS compounds,” said Rouzer. “Additionally, the legislation would set up a grant program to help offset the cost of purchasing and installing effective water filtration systems to remove these forever chemicals. I will continue working to help bring forward solutions to ensure access to safe drinking water."
“Regardless of where you live, every Wisconsinite deserves access to clean drinking water and an environment free of toxic chemicals. Across our state, many rural and smaller communities are struggling to identify, treat, and get rid of emerging chemicals that endanger our health, especially that of our children,” said Senator Baldwin. “I am excited to partner with my Republican colleague to introduce legislation that will cut costs and expand access to water testing and treatment for families in rural communities so that when they turn on the faucet, they can be confident our drinking water is safe.”
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, 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 H2O 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:
“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.”
Pingree, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, 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.
As Chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees funding for the EPA, in the 117thCongress and as Ranking Member in the 118th Congress, Pingree has championed funding to clean up PFAS. In the Fiscal Year 2023 government funding bill signed by President Biden, Pingree secured $8 million for the EPA to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to further research on PFAS contamination in agriculture, as well as $5 million to assist farmers whose land has been contaminated by PFAS.
Addressing PFAS contamination is a top priority for Pingree as she and her House Agriculture Committee colleagues work to reauthorize the must-pass Farm Bill. In March, Pingree, alongside Senators Collins and Angus King (I-Maine) and Representative Jared Golden (D-Maine), reintroduced the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act, which would authorize grants for states to provide financial assistance to affected farmers, expand monitoring and testing, remediate PFAS, or even help farmers relocate.