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Bill Would Convene Experts To Study Toxic PFAS Chemicals In Mass. Water And Soil

December 19, 2019

Colin A. Young, State House News Service

The House on Monday passed a bill that would pull together experts from various state agencies to study a group of chemical contaminants found in some drinking water and to devise a plan to help cities and towns test for and treat the problem.

The interagency task force would review and investigate water and ground contamination of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) across Massachusetts under the bill (H 4256), which was released by the House Ways and Means Committee and passed by the House on Thursday.

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Addressing PFAS contamination has been a growing priority on Beacon Hill and lawmakers recently approved nearly $15 million in the last supplemental budget to address the issue.

PFAS chemicals have been used since the 1950s on non-stick, water-resistant and stain-resistant products. They can also be found in types of firefighting foam used by military and civilian firefighters and at airports. PFAS contamination has been detected in public water supplies in Ayer, Barnstable, Harvard, Hudson, Mashpee, Middleton, Shirley and Westfield, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker's administration rolled out draft regulations that would use the most current data to set up enforceable standards for public drinking water systems and committed $24 million for water infrastructure, including statewide PFAS testing and PFAS remediation. The draft regulations would establish testing protocols and set limits for six chemicals in groundwater and soil that would trigger cleanup requirements if exceeded.

The bill that the House passed Thursday was a Ways and Means redraft of legislation initially filed by Reps. Kate Hogan and Jennifer Benson, and Sen. Julian Cyr. If the bill is also passed by the Senate and signed by Baker, the task force would be required to produce "a report of its findings and recommendations, together with drafts of legislation necessary to carry those recommendations into effect," by the end of 2020.


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