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Washington — A new bill in the Senate would mandate that federal environmental regulators designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund program within a year, requiring polluters to clean up contaminated sites.

The legislation, called the PFAS Action Plan of 2019, was introduced Friday by a bipartisan group of more than a dozen senators including Michigan's Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township; and Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing. 

A similar measure was introduced in the House in January by Reps. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph; Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn; and Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township. 

PFAS refers to a large class of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances used to make furniture, paper packaging for food and cookware resistant to water, grease or stains.

The chemicals are linked to health effects including certain cancers and damage to liver and immunity functions, developmental impacts on fetuses, as well as cognitive and behavioral effects in exposed children. 

The toxic compounds have been detected at high levels in at least 46 sites throughout Michigan, including around military bases in Oscoda, Alpena and Grayling.

“I’ve listened to Michiganders across the state who are rightly concerned about their exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals and want action,” said Peters, who serves as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. 

“Researchers and scientists have underscored the serious risks of contamination to both human health and our environment. We need to address PFAS, which is why I am helping lead a bipartisan group of my colleagues in introducing legislation that will force the clean-up of contaminated communities in Michigan and around the nation.”

Stabenow said in a statement that categorizing PFAS as hazardous will help accelerate the cleanup of contaminated areas and protect Michigan communities in Michigan,” Stabenow said.

"This legislation also holds the (Environmental Protection Agency) accountable for their previous commitments made in their PFAS Action Plan," she said. 

Last month, the EPA released its "action plan" for PFAS that included a commitment to begin the process of designating two well-known PFAS compounds, PFOA and PFOS, as hazardous substances under the Superfund law. Senators noted the agency did not say how long the designation process would take.

Other sponsors of the measure include: U.S. Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware; Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia; Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina; Marco Rubio, R-Florida; Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; Cory Gardner, R-Colorado; Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, Richard Burr, R-North Carolina; Michael Bennet, D-Colorado; and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia. 

mburke@detroitnews.com 

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