The Mad River flows past the City of Dayton’s Ottawa water treatment plant on the east side of Dayton. Tests indicated that polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) were present in the drinking water in 2018 even after some contaminated wells were shut down last year. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Federal lawmakers push EPA to take action on PFAS: What it means for Dayton

A proposed federal law could direct the Environmental Protection Agency to declare dangerous chemicals found in the water supplies in Dayton and at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base hazardous substances under the EPA Superfund law.

Newly introduced legislation in Congress would require the EPA to designate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances as hazardous substances within one year under the Superfund law. Currently, the chemicals are not declared hazardous substances and there is little federal or state oversight for the contaminants.

The designation under Superfund law would allow federal funds to be used to clean up groundwater contamination due to PFAS spills and mandate responsible parties report spills of PFAS and be held liable for cleanup.

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PFAS contaminants have been found in parts of the city of Dayton water supply as well as on base at Wright-Patterson. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — known regularly as PFAS — are a group of man-made chemicals that include different types of substances including PFOA, PFOS, GenX and others.

PFAS can be found in some firefighting foams, household products like water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products like Teflon, waxes, polishes, and even some food packaging, according to the EPA.

PFAS chemical compounds turned up in March at Dayton’s Ottawa Water Treatment Plant, the first time the compounds — believed to be safe when below 70 ppt for lifetime exposure — were detected in water after the treatment process. The chemicals have also been found in part of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s water supply.

In October 2018, Dayton filed a lawsuit to hold companies accountable after PFAS chemicals contaminated the city’s water supply.

“As PFAS contamination becomes a growing concern for communities across the state and country, it’s time for the EPA to step up and declare these chemicals as hazardous substances,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who joined the bipartisan legislation. “Local communities shouldn’t have to worry about the safety of their water supply. This designation will finally give states the answers they deserve and help hold bad actors accountable.”

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Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also told this news organization that he is encouraged to see the EPA is “taking a close look at this, and will be engaging in processes with the public, stakeholders, and experts.”

In February, the EPA announced that it is implementing its “first-ever comprehensive nationwide PFAS Action Plan.” Critics say the plan is too vague to address the contaminants in a timely fashion.

“This so-called ‘action plan’ on PFAS is really a non-action plan, designed to delay effective regulation of these dangerous chemicals in our drinking water,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, in a statement on Twitter.

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