Courtroom Loss Should Serve as Call to Action: Designate PFAS as hazardous!

Last week, Judge Pappert dismissed the PFAS exposure medical monitoring suit we filed against the US Navy because, even though these chemicals are “hazardous” under any definition, neither the EPA nor the PaDEP had “designated” PFOA or PFOS as “hazardous substances” under Pennsylvania’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act. The judge ruled that meeting the “definition” wasn’t good enough; we need a “designation”.

It might be tempting to complain about the legal technicality which distinguishes “designation” from “definition”. But our real complaint is that THIS DESIGNATION SHOULD HAVE BEEN MADE YEARS AGO!
The Delaware Riverkeeper petitioned the PaDEP’s environmental Quality Board for this designation in July 2017–over 2 1/2 years ago! EPA has been well aware of the toxic qualities of these chemicals for over twenty years! And it’s been promising the designation since the Spring of 2018.

It’s one thing for the EPA drag its feet. After all, EPA is heavily influenced by it the Department of Defense, its sister federal agency. But the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s inaction is especially egregious and inexcusable. In June 2016, Gov. Wolf wrote to the Navy, asking that it “cover the costs for testing any affected resident who would like a blood test due to the federal government’s contamination of his or her water”. That same month, The PA legislature passed a similar resolution calling for the Department of Defense to “provide ongoing biomonitoring to residents and military personnel who have been exposed to water contamination” from the polluted military bases.

When the Navy responded to these requests with a resounding “NO” Pennsylvania should have acted immediately to designate PFAS as “hazardous substances”. This would have empowered its exposed citizens to force the Navy to provide the testing. Instead over three and a half years have gone by, and the Commonwealth has done nothing.
We hope the dismissal of our case will serve as a clarion call to action.

Eventually PFAS will be designated as hazardous. And when it is, we will be back in court and going after the Navy to get exposed residents the blood testing they’re entitled to.