Bold Recommendations Promised After Look At “Forever Chemicals”
Task Force Works On Draft Of Overdue Report
2/8/22 1:17 PM
FEB. 8, 2022.....A legislative group studying the effects of "forever chemicals" is gearing up to release a final report on the topic and began circulating a draft report among members following a brief Tuesday meeting.
The 19-member PFAS Interagency Task Force was charged by lawmakers with studying per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, contaminants that do not break down easily and stay in the environment for a long time. Exposure to certain kinds of PFAS has been linked to negative health effects like thyroid disease and kidney cancer.
Commission members were told to expect a draft version of the report in their inboxes later Tuesday and were asked to provide feedback by Friday, Feb. 18. This version of the report, task force co-chair Sen. Julian Cyr said, is "for task force members only."
"Once feedback is incorporated from all task force members, we will release a version of the report to the public," the Truro Democrat said. "We'll communicate the key findings, recommendations via a press release, press conference, media interviews, all of that once the report comes back to the task force and we all take a final hopefully, affirmative vote to support it."
The group first convened last June and has held a total of nine hearings, not including Tuesday's 15-minute status update, on how the chemicals impact public health and the environment, what municipalities can do to combat further spread, and most recently, heard testimony from state and regional advocacy groups.
Rep. Kate Hogan, also a co-chair of the task force, said the draft report being circulated to members shines "a light on all aspects of the PFAS challenge" and incorporates input from researchers, scientists, local advocates, and task force members.
PFAS is most commonly found in consumer products like food packaging, outdoor clothing, and leather goods, but also appears in specific types of firefighting foam that can then seep into groundwater. The task force previously heard from local experts on the effects of water and ground contamination and methods of combatting PFAS exposure.
Hogan said it became clear through testimony that towns and local fire departments cannot shoulder the "significant challenges" of remediating PFAS on their own.
"But their testimony certainly gave us a very distinct and clear picture for each town, which gave us a great overview of the needs that exist," she said. "...The draft you each will receive is comprehensive in scope and bold in actions that we recommend. Massachusetts has always been an outpost for bold action and thoughtful policy and the issue of PFAS contamination will be no exception."
State law required the group to submit a final report to the Legislature by Dec. 31, 2021.
A spokesperson for Hogan said the task force notified members in November that it would be pursuing a deadline extension to file a final report.
"Report deadlines can be extended retroactively, and the PFAS Task Force will be doing so before filing the report," the spokesperson said via email. "Task Force Members will be receiving a draft report today and we expect to release the final version once all their feedback collected."
During the meeting, Massachusetts Water Works Association Executive Director Jennifer Pederson asked how the co-chairs and their staff will reconcile differing viewpoints on a particular issue when preparing the final report.
Cyr said when he's served on commissions delving into controversial issues, like the Harm Reduction Task Force, members are presented with a list of recommendations and can vote for or against their inclusion in the final report.
"We'll sort of cross that bridge as it comes," he said. "I think we're hoping that there is consensus here. I think you'll see a report that is comprehensive, that we really aim to address PFAS along its entire life cycle."
In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the addition of four PFAS substances to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) list, a data set that is reported to the EPA on an annual basis by certain industry sectors that manufacture or process TRI-listed chemicals.
The data includes chemical quantities that are released into the environment or are otherwise managed as waste. The information collected through the list "allows communities to learn how facilities in their area are managing listed chemicals," the agency said in a press release.
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