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Report: Feds massively underestimating cost of cleaning up toxic forever chemicals

Decatur is one of the communities heavily impacted by the pollution of PFAS chemicals in its water supply.

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A new report from the Water Coalition Against PFAS on Tuesday estimates that the cost of cleaning up toxic PFAS chemicals in water supplies across the country could be as much as three times higher than projections by the Environmental Protection Agency.

A recent national survey of public clean water utilities conducted by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) suggests operational costs for individual utilities could increase by more than 60 percent as a direct result of new PFAS regulations. Total amounts will vary from utility to utility, depending on the specific regulations implemented. However, a new study from Minnesota supports this finding, showing total wastewater costs to remove PFAS to be between $14 and $28 billion over 20 years in that state alone. NACWA said that wastewater utilities alone in the US will be responsible for tens of billions of dollars in additional costs to address PFAS – all of which must be passed on to ratepayers.

Separately, according to a report commissioned by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and prepared by Black & Veatch, drinking water utilities will need to invest more than $50 billion to install and operate treatment technology over the next 20 years, in order to comply with new PFAS drinking water standards. Additional analysis by Hazen & Sawyer estimates that a hazardous substance designation for PFOA and PFOS under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) could add another $3.5 billion per year in disposal costs for the water sector, although this does not account for potential CERCLA liability costs that utilities could face.

“PFAS chemicals are impacting utilities of all sizes and in all corners of the country. But the challenges are especially acute for small and rural utilities that often have fewer resources to deal with new regulations and requirements,” said Jeaniece Slater, general manager of the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority in Decatur. “The reality is that, if Congress doesn’t act and protect water utilities from misplaced PFAS liability under CERCLA, small and rural utilities across the nation could find themselves and their communities bankrupt – essentially paying to clean-up the pollution created by private companies. Congress simply cannot allow this to happen.”

Decatur is one of the communities heavily impacted by the pollution of PFAS chemicals in its water supply as one of the leading PFAS manufacturers 3M has been responsible for chemicals entering the water supply.

The City of Decatur as well as Gadsden and the town of Guin have all had ongoing lawsuits with he company over the pollution. 3M announced earlier this year that it is moving away from the manufacturing of PFAS chemicals, in part because of the new EPA regulations.

None of Alabama’s Republican Congressional representatives voted in favor of the regulations.

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Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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