Residents of poisoned communities nationwide demand a seat at the table with EPA
Communities affected by PFAS in drinking water demand to be included in decisions on cleanup and regulation
For immediate release: May 22, 2018
Washington, D.C. — Today kicks off the the EPA’s National Leadership Summit on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Washington D.C., and a national coalition of communities who are dealing with the toxic crisis in their drinking water are demanding to be heard.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt convened the summit to bring together stakeholders to take action on PFAS, the family of chemicals found in non-stick, waterproof and stain resistant products, firefighting foam, and the drinking water of nearly 16 million people in 33 states. Representatives from state government, environmental agencies and national environmental groups across the country were invited to attend. Conspicuously absent are representatives from communities that are suffering from PFAS water contamination.
In light of last week’s news that White House staff and the EPA actively worked to suppress the release of a key study on the health effects of PFAS, community leaders from the National PFAS Contamination Coalition took to social media today using the hashtags #SeatAtTheTable and #PFAS to pressure the agency into being more transparent.
“Last week, we learned that the EPA suppressed a PFAS study. This week, they’re convening a summit on PFAS, and, out of millions affected, only ONE of us is allowed to attend on only ONE day to bear witness. How are we supposed to trust anything about this?” asked Kristen Mello, co-founder of Westfield Residents Advocating For Themselves (WRAFT), a group in Westfield, MA, working on PFAS water contamination in their town. “It’s our water and our bodies that are contaminated, and will remain so for years to come. We deserve to be part of the solution, and we deserve to see that study.”
So far, over 36 communities in 10 states have shared why they need a seat at the table through the campaign. Residents of PFAS contaminated communities in Alaska, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Michigan, Colorado, New York, North Carolina, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin are sharing why they need to be included. And the number is still growing.
“We drank polluted water for years without knowing it. Now it’s time for transparency,” said Laurene Allen, of the PFAS-focused community group Citizens for Clean Water in Merrimack, NH. “We want to know exactly how the EPA plans to clean up this public health catastrophe and we want to be part of the solution.”
There are no enforceable federal regulations on PFAS contamination and many experts believe that the EPA’s standards for how much of the chemicals can be in drinking water are too high. While the EPA found that 70 parts per trillion (ppt) is a safe level for PFAS in drinking water, states like Vermont have set their standards at 20 ppt. The study that the EPA suppressed is expected to reveal that standards should be even lower.
“It’s our water that’s contaminated and it’s our health that’s at risk,” said Emily Donovan from Clean Cape Fear in North Carolina. “The science being done and the policies being created are really about us, our health, and our communities, and we deserve a seat at the table.”
“In the United States, we pride ourselves on our democratic process. That means communities on the front lines need to have a seat at the table, always,” said Shaina Kasper, Water Program Director at Community Action Works.
The National PFAS Contamination Coalition is a network of impacted communities that formed last year. The group coordinated the social media action and is encouraging impacted communities across the country to participate by sharing why they need to be included in decisions on PFAS.
“The communities most affected by the science and policies should be centered in — not excluded from — the efforts to understand, remediate, and regulate these dangerous chemicals.” said Arnie Leriche as Community Co-Chair, Wurtsmith RAB in Oscoda, MI. “We demand to be part of the discussion that will affect our health, our water and our families for generations to come. It’s shocking to be left out.”
Community Action Works works side-by-side with communities to prevent or clean up pollution in New England. Learn more at www.communityactionworks.org.