Later this week, the U.S. House is expected to vote on a bill aimed at regulating so-called ‘forever chemicals.’
For example, it requires the federal government to list PFAS as hazardous substances. It also directs the use of federal funding to help with cleaning up contamination.
An advocate from a community impacted by GenX in North Carolina offered praise for the legislation.
“It’s very comprehensive. It’s exactly what I think North Carolina needs and what our region needs," said Emily Donovan, a co-founder of the organization Clean Cape Fear. "What we’re concerned about is making sure that it has bipartisan support."
Years after it was first discovered, GenX continues to haunt those in the Cape Fear region of North Carolina.
The forever chemical, created at a nearby plant, potentially puts them at risk of cancer or other health problems.
“We can’t afford one more drop of this in our water. Yet we’re still drinking baseline levels,” Donovan said.
The pending vote on the PFAS legislation comes just weeks after the Senate and the House punted on negotiations over whether to include more stringent 'forever chemical' regulations in a must-pass defense bill.
Ultimately, lawmakers settled on what some environmentalists labeled baby steps, including restricting the military’s use of PFAS in firefighting foam.
Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8th District - who has repeatedly raised concerns about GenX - said that while the final defense bill was a positive step, he did not think it went far enough on PFAS compared with earlier drafts of the bill.
“Until I know the science behind GenX, until I know exactly what safe levels and unsafe levels of exposure are, and until we can start cleaning up adequately the exposure we’ve had in North Carolina, I’m not going to be satisfied,” he said.
If the new bill passes the House, its fate in the Republican controlled Senate is anything but certain. If the recent debate between the two chambers and parties is any indication, it could be a hard sell.
Environmental advocates argue the time to act is now.
“The big question is, what will Sen. Mitch McConnell do? Is he going to let it die in the legislative graveyard or is he going to take action on it?” said Matthew Davis, legislative director at the League of Conservation Voters.
When the PFAS bill first passed out of committee in November, Hudson said in a statement that while he supported the package, he also had"concerns about some provisions and the unintended consequences that non-science based decisions may have on our economy." A spokesperson said he plans to introduce an amendment or two focused specifically on GenX.