The regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled the agency’s plan to address safe drinking water during a meeting Thursday morning at the Riverfront Community Center.
At issue are what are known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that can make their way into the environment.
The chemicals have been used in numerous products to include nonstick cookware, grease-resistant paper products, fire suppression foams and more.
The EPA’s action plan will move forward with a maximum contaminant level process outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act for PFOA and PFOS, two prevalent PFAS chemicals. The plan is to continue the agency’s enforcement actions and clarify its clean-up strategies. The plan also sets out to expand monitoring of PFAS in the environment and enhance research for addressing PFAS by developing new analytical methods and tools, according to a press release.
“This plan is truly historic,” said Jim Gulliford, EPA’s Region 7 administrator. “It addresses an emerging environmental challenge.”
Gulliford’s remarks in Leavenworth came after a similar press conference held by Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler earlier Thursday morning. He said the EPA is checking to see if there is contaminated water in communities where PFAS was used.
“Americans count on EPA every time they turn on their faucet,” Wheeler said at a press conference in Philadelphia. “That’s why communities across the nation have asked us to provide a comprehensive approach to understand PFAS in drinking water. Our action plan provides just that.”
Regional administrators across the U.S. followed up his remarks with public meetings across the country.
Last year, samples taken of the system that provides drinking water at Fort Leavenworth found chemical levels above the health advisory. Officials speculate that foam used in the fort’s fire suppression training may have been a source.
So to ensure the health of people drinking water from that system, drinking water at the fort is now provided by the city of Leavenworth.
“The drinking water in the county of Leavenworth is safe,” Gulliford said.