Community Action Works
Community Action Works

Rhode Island Department of Health Declines to Regulate Toxic Chemicals

Media Contact:
Jake O’Neill
(617) 850-1709

March 12, 2019 (PROVIDENCE, RI) – The Rhode Island Department of Health has declined to regulate toxic Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in drinking water. The decision came in response to a petition filed in February by Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and Community Action Works requesting that the agency adopt a drinking water standard to protect the public from five of the most common PFAS, and to begin the process of regulating these dangerous chemicals as a class.

“With the EPA’s national PFAS plan falling far short, it’s up to the states to protect us from these toxic chemicals,” said Amy Moses, Vice President and Director of CLF Rhode Island. “The dangerous health effects of these substances have been known for years, and other New England states have committed to solving the problem. Rhode Island needs to protect public health and that starts with ensuring everyone has safe drinking water.”

PFAS are suspected carcinogens and have been linked to a variety of severe health problems including learning disorders in infants and children, fertility and pregnancy issues, and impaired liver, thyroid, and pancreatic function.

“Rhode Islanders deserve to know the drinking water coming out of their taps is safe,” said Sofia Owen, Rhode Island Community Organizer at Community Action Works. “We have known for years that PFAS are dangerous to human health and the environment. We are disappointed that at this time, the Department of Health is unwilling to adopt an MCL to protect residents’ health and drinking water.”

Several New England states are already tackling the problem of PFAS in drinking water:

  • Massachusetts has committed to test for and treat five of these harmful chemicals; and will solicit public comments regarding the regulation of PFAS as a class and/or the adoption of a treatment technique;
  • Vermont will also set a standard for treat five PFAS, has opened a statewide investigation into the problem and the state legislature is considering a bill to better protect Vermonters from PFAS;
  • New Hampshire has proposed rules to require public water systems to test for and treat four PFAS and it is in the midst of taking public comment as part of its rulemaking process. Legislation to require testing of air, soil, and groundwater in three communities directly impacted by releases of perfluorinated chemicals from a manufacturing business is pending;
  • The Governor of Maine recently convened a task force chaired by the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection to study PFAS contamination and potential remedies in that state.

PFAS have been found in Rhode Island public water supplies in Burrillville, Cumberland and Westerly, and in ground water at Naval Station Newport.

You can find the petition here, the proposed rule here, and the Department of Health response here.

Experts are available for further comment.


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