DELAWARE – New legislation could ensure safer drinking water for the Delawaren. House Bill 8 was promulgated by Governor John Carney on Wednesday afternoon. “In Delaware, we really value clean water, clean water statewide,” said Debra Heffernan, the representative for the sponsor of the bill. “We have been working on this bill for a few years so that the DPH and DNREC are ready to start the process. “
The bill sets a cap on the acceptable level of PFO or PFOA in drinking water. “They are what we call a permanent chemical because it does not break down in the environment. Delaware, like many other states, has widespread contamination of our water and drinking water, ”said Representative Heffernan.
The Delaware Division of Public Health and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control are now responsible for regulating these levels. “This will give us an enforceable limit so that our groundwater and our drinking water are clean for our Delaware citizens,” said Representative Heffernan.
Delaware Director of Environmental Health DPH Jamie Mack told 47ABC that these regulations would be based on conversations with community stakeholders. This way, the agency can determine which level limits are best suited for Delaware.
Mack adds that they will likely look to existing Environmental Protection Agency Hazard Action Level guidelines as a starting point. “It’s going to start with public meetings and draft regulations, probably within 60 to 90 days net. At this point, we’ll set a standard in the draft regulation and use it to open a conversation with the community, ”Mack said.
Lawmakers say another important part of the legislation was to ensure that taxpayers did not have to foot the tab on screening and prevention efforts. “There is a lot of money in Delaware that is spent on drinking water, like HB200“Said Representative Heffernan.” There is a pilot program to help municipalities and individuals with wells and small water systems assess the quality of their drinking water.
Mack adds that working with utility providers will also help reduce those costs. “We are also here to protect utilities when they put in place new technology to solve problems, and we continue to support them so that they do not have to pass the burden of costs on to users, ”a- he declared.
Prevent health risks
Chemicals that can be found just about anywhere, from nonstick coatings on kitchen utensils to fire fighting chemicals. “In airports and things like that, in some fires, they might not want to use water for different reasons. They’ll use that foam, and it’s got a lot of PFOA, which then flows into the environment and we can be exposed to it that way, ”Mack said.
Mack says research is still being done on the effect chemicals can have on people. But, there is some data which suggests that they can cause health problems. “We’re still learning a lot about chemicals because they’re a very large group of chemicals. But, the concerns right now are the effects on the liver and kidneys, ”he said. “When we think about pregnancy and some of that vulnerability, we are also concerned about blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, as well as the potential for low birth weight.”
Other states across the country have similar legislation, but not all are the same. “If you look at these levels across the country, you’ll see a wide variety of numbers, ranging from things as low as I think 12 in New Jersey to a few hundred in some Midwestern states,” Mack said.
Safer water, better future
Representative Heffernan said she was proud of the progress this legislation marks for the first state. She adds that she is also hopeful what this might mean for Delaware’s healthcare future. “I think this really puts Delaware at the forefront of cleaning up PFOA from our drinking water,” she said.