West Virgina Lawmakers Push to Regulate ‘Forever’ PFAS Chemicals

Nadia Ramlagan

West Virginia lawmakers are expected to introduce legislation in 2023 aimed at regulating PFAS chemicals in the state’s drinking-water systems.

Commonly found in Teflon cookware, water-resistant clothing, fast-food packaging and other consumer goods, PFAS have been linked to cancer, immune suppression, neurodevelopmental disorders, thyroid disease, decreased fertility and other conditions.

Luanne McGovern, a member of the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, explained that The Clean Drinking Water Act of 2023 – modeled after last year’s House Bill 4055 – would outline a strong set of actions to curb residents’ exposure to the chemicals.

“The legislature, first off, wants to set state-specific maximum contaminant levels for certain PFAS chemicals,” said McGovern. “They also want to establish a PFAS action-response team to go after some of the really high areas. They also want to require facilities that are using PFAS to report their use.”

Last summer the Environmental Protection Agency released drinking-water health advisories for some PFAS compounds, listing the threshold of contamination least likely to cause harm to human health. The advisories are only recommendations and are not enforceable.

Last week the agency released its new PFAS database, which it says will help public-health experts and scientists better understand potential PFAS sources in their communities.

A federal study released in 2022 found PFAS in 67 West Virginia public water systems, out of more than two hundred tested.

McGovern pointed out that the bulk were concentrated along the Ohio River, in the Parkersburg area, and in the eastern panhandle – all highly populated regions.

“I think,” said McGovern, “having this study has really empowered people to go to their local water treatment, their local town or city, and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing with this? What are we doing to put in the right equipment to be taking PFAS out of our drinking water?'”

Meanwhile, some manufacturers are moving away from using the chemicals. The company 3M announced last month a plan to phase out PFAS by the end of 2025.