Bill would limit Ohio firefighters’ use of foam containing ‘forever chemicals’

Ohio Statehouse
Ohio Statehouse

A bill that would outlaw the use of firefighting foam that contains a group of harmful chemicals was voted out of committee, and is awaiting a floor vote in the Ohio House of Representatives.

It’s not clear when House Bill 158 will go to the House floor, and its sponsor, State Rep. Brian Baldridge, R-Winchester, has not gotten confirmation that it’s been selected for the upcoming session calendar, his office said.

HB158 proposes that Ohio fire departments be required to find an alternative to firefighter foam containing the group of contaminants known as PFAS. The legislation also proposes that fire departments be limited to using PFAS-based firefighter foam only for testing if the facility at which it’s being used has a way to contain the chemical and prevent it from going into the environment.

Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, is expected to be added as a co-sponsor when the legislation goes to the House floor, he said.

“We figured out (PFAS) are dangerous chemicals, and we’ve got some problems in our local wells because of it,” Plummer said, explaining why he’s supporting the bill.

Phil Plummer
Phil Plummer

Credit: FILE

Credit: FILE

The group of toxins, dubbed “forever chemicals” because of their longevity, were detected in Aullwood Audubon Farm Discovery Center’s drinking water system in Dayton in 2020. Levels of the contaminants have also been detected in several private wells in nearby neighborhoods.

ExploreAullwood searching for solutions after ‘forever chemicals’ detected in drinking water system

Baldridge, a former firefighter, introduced a version of HB158 in 2019. Since then, it’s come up for a vote three times ― twice in committee and once on the House floor ― receiving unanimous support. It was voted out of committee 12-0 on May 5. Baldridge is confident the bill will continue to get broad support when it’s heard on the House floor, he said.

Rep. Brian Baldridge. Contributed
Rep. Brian Baldridge. Contributed

“Not only does this legislation benefit our communities by protecting our hard working first responders, but also by protecting our waterways from contamination,” he said. “I am hopeful that we will see this important legislation through the finish line in this General Assembly.”

Exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances ― or PFAS ― can affect pregnancy, increase cholesterol levels and cause some forms of cancer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infants and children, pregnant and nursing women, and those who have a compromised immune system may be at a higher risk of health effects as well.

For decades, the Dayton Fire Department used PFAS-based foam at its fire training center, 200 McFadden Ave. The city stopped using the product in recent years. PFAS-based firefighter foams also have been used at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The foam from the base and the city’s training center is believed to have contaminated parts of the Buried Valley Aquifer, which is the drinking water source for communities throughout the Miami Valley.

ExploreDeWine seeks partnership with city, DOD to address ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

In 2018, Dayton filed a federal lawsuit against several companies that make firefighting foam to help with the cost of cleaning up PFAS. The companies include 3M Company, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard Inc., Tyco Fire Products L.P., and National Foam Inc.

The city recently filed another lawsuit seeking damages of up to $300 million against Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the U.S. Department of Defense, accusing them of failing to stop water containing PFAS from flowing daily into the city’s Mad River Wellfield. The base and DoD have disputed the city’s claims, saying the groundwater near the base boundary is below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended action levels.

In Other News