New law directs DEP to set up PFAS cleanup rules, as feds issue advisory
Image via Facebook Live.

Ron DeSantis Shawn Hamilton
Scientists have detected the substance in nearly everyone tested, and the effects aren’t yet fully understood.

Florida is beginning to tackle the cleanup of a family of once-everyday chemical substances about which federal regulators sounded the alarm last week.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed legislation (HB 1475) that asks the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to immediately begin to adopt statewide rules to clean up perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The compounds with a mouthful of a name, commonly shortened to PFAS, were once used in firefighting foams to nonstick frying pans. Now, environmental and health studies say they’re far more dangerous than thought as recently as 2016.

Florida’s legislation, filed by Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure, requires DEP to adopt statewide cleanup levels for PFAS in drinking water, groundwater and soil by 2025. Those rules would have to go through the Legislature for ratification.

Although the United States no longer produces PFAS, they were common in the aerospace, medical and construction industries and more dating back to the 1950s. They were also a common substance in firefighting foam. Today, they can be imported in goods such as carpet, paper and packaging, and plastics.

However, PFAS chemicals don’t break down in the environment. They can move through soil and water and accumulate in fish and wildlife.

Advocates have long sought to reduce the reach of the substances. Those calls were amplified Wednesday when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a drinking water advisory for a pair of substances in the PFAS family after releasing studies indicating the substances are more dangerous than once thought.

“People on the front-lines of PFAS contamination have suffered for far too long,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “That’s why EPA is taking aggressive action as part of a whole-of-government approach to prevent these chemicals from entering the environment and to help protect concerned families from this pervasive challenge.”

The EPA announced it would put forward $1 billion of the recent federal infrastructure law to reduce PFAS and other drinking water contaminants.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has detected PFAS in nearly everyone it has tested for the substance. Still, it’s possible that the substance could impact cholesterol levels, hormones, the immune system and unborn and young children. It could also increase the risk of certain cancers.

Throughout the Session, Sen. Jason Brodeur, the Sanford Republican who shepherded the bill through the Senate, called PFAS “our generation’s big ‘forever chemical’” a term that has caught on nationally for the substances.

Despite the FDA and the CDC flagging the chemicals, there aren’t federal standards for regulating PFAS, though some could come in the next few years. At the state level, DEP has provisional cleanup target levels for the substances.

On Tuesday, the Florida League of Cities, led by President Phillip Walker, lauded DeSantis for signing the bill and McClure for sponsoring it.

“The presence of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in soil and water has been a concern for some time now. Addressing those concerns however has been difficult due to the lack of established standards, among other challenges,” the League wrote in a statement.

“This bill is a step in the right direction and will hopefully provide much needed clarity and guidance as we all work together towards a safer, cleaner environment.”

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


4 comments

  • joe falk

    June 22, 2022 at 12:01 am

    Yes, yes, yes, PFAS is scary and it’s all over. Newest and best remedy is a system called AEC. Being sold as of July 1st, I think. Friend in CA water works business told me about it. You can probably find info and confirm.

    Reply

  • Brandon S

    June 22, 2022 at 11:03 am

    BioLargo Water – should be consulted. They have the best solution for treating PFAS and forever chemicals.

    Reply

  • Brandon S

    June 22, 2022 at 11:07 am

    BioLargo Engineering – For PFAS solutions.
    Investigate BioLargo Engineering for PFAS remediation. They have the lowest cost / most effective / PFAS system.

    Reply

  • Paul J.

    June 26, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    Renzo, interesting article, but there are some errors, i.e., “Although the United States no longer produces PFAS,”. This is not true as there are literally thousands in production in the U.S. and around the world. Only 2 PFAS, PFOA and PFOS, were voluntarily dropped from production by U.S. producers. “They were also a common substance in firefighting foam.” They still are. “PFAS chemicals don’t break down in the environment.” Some do. Let me know if you’d like citations.

    Reply

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