In 2017, Toxic-Free Future and a coalition of partners petitioned the state Board of Health to create a drinking water standard for PFAS. The standard would provide much-needed public health protections and accountability for chemical companies that have been contaminating Washingtonians’ water and leaving communities on the hook for the costly clean-up.
“Without drinking water standards… there is no oversight and enforcement for chemicals that we know are harmful to our health,” wrote the coalition in 2017. “Residents should not be drinking water contaminated with these chemicals. Drinking water standards will ensure that they are not.”
The Board responded promptly in December 2017 by taking the first step – filing paperwork to begin rulemaking. The Department of Health carried out extensive work to prepare a draft the rule and established a timeline for adopting the rule by August 2020.
Unfortunately, the process has stalled. At this month’s State Board of Health meeting, instead of celebrating the adoption of a rule that will, at long last, establish testing requirements and standards that Washington’s drinking water should meet, the Board accepted a delayed timeline to the spring/summer of 2021.
This is not the time for delay. PFAS problems continue to grow in Washington state and the urgency of combatting COVID-19 only makes it more necessary to turn the tap off these immune-harming forever chemicals. Michigan and New York have recently enacted statewide drinking water standards, and Washington state should do the same.
“In light of the extreme harm caused by this class of chemicals the Board of Health should move forward with speed, not delay… The consequences of inaction and delay are clear, and they’re unacceptable, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic when we need to protect people from these immune-harming chemicals. At a time when Washington state should be leading, we’re falling behind. Washington must join the growing number of states that are enacting safe drinking water standards to keep their communities safe from PFAS.”