As Feds Move To Regulate PFAS, Vermont Environmental Official Has ‘Strong Concerns’

May 24, 2018

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency held a summit in Washington D.C. to discuss the environmental impact of chemicals known as PFAS.

PFAS, or Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, are a group of man-made chemicals. They include PFOS and PFOA.

Drinking water in Bennington was contaminated by PFOA, and communities around the country have also had their water tainted by the chemicals.

Peter Walke, Deputy Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), attended the EPA conference this week.

Walke said EPA officials made strong signals they intend to regulate PFAS, nationally.

But Walke expressed concern about what the federal government would define as a safe level.

Right now, Vermont’s limit for a safe level of the chemicals in drinking water is significantly lower than the federal limit.

ANR Deputy Secretary Peter Walke spoke to VPR’s Henry Epp. Listen to their conversation above.

“We welcome the EPA regulating PFAS similar to what we have in Vermont and going further.” Walke said. “We need consistent standards across the nation.”

Earlier this month, Politico reported the EPA and the White House moved to block the publication of a study showing the chemicals impact human health at much lower levels than what the federal government currently considers safe. Walke said that study should be released.

“We need to see what the data says and what the science says so that we all can make appropriate decisions,” Walke said.

The EPA conference made headlines this week as several reporters were barred from attending. One reporter for The Associated Press said she was forcibly removed from the EPA building.

Walke said he didn’t witness that incident but called the restrictions on press access a “mistake.”

“We should have had more community groups and more press be there to share their experiences and have those communicated out to everybody so we can really shine a light on this issue and make sure that we … get the changes … that we need to really be able to effectively regulate this,” Walke said.