Ohio House members propose bill to address toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

State Rep. Mary Lightbody, D-Westerville, speaks at an event in the Statehouse. Photo from Ohio House website.

Two Ohio House Democrats have introduced legislation that would crack down on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of chemicals known as PFAS that are said to cause serious health problems.

State Reps. Allison Russo, D- Upper Arlington, and Mary Lightbody, D-Westerville, last week announced the introduction of The Safe Drinking Water Act. The bill would require the director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to adopt rules establishing maximum allowable contaminant levels in drinking and surface water for certain contaminants, including PFAS.

Specifically, a release said, the Ohio EPA would be required under House Bill 497 to establish a maximum contaminant level for PFAS compounds, Chromium-6 (the Erin Brockovich chemical), and 1.4 dioxane.

“People across Ohio are being exposed to unsafe drinking water that is polluted with dangerous toxins and contaminants, putting our citizens’ health and safety at risk simply by drinking the water that flows into their homes and public places,” Russo said.

Lightbody said recent changes in federal water standards make it critical that we set standards in Ohio to protect our water sources from ‘forever’ chemicals such as those in this bill.

“We serve communities across Ohio and future generations deserve advocates who act now in the best interests of their health and well-being,” she said.

In December 2019, Gov. Mike DeWine released an action plan for the Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Health to fully evaluate the prevalence of PFAS in Ohio’s drinking water. However, Ohio currently has no established maximum levels for many known drinking water contaminants, the release said.

At the federal level, Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown has called for U.S. Senate action on House-passed legislation that would would crack down on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of chemicals known as PFAS that are said to cause serious health problems.

Brown’s call follows reports of PFAS chemicals found in Ohioans’ drinking water.

David C. DeWitt
David C. DeWitt is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience covering Ohio politics and policy. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS and Plunderbund.com covering topics such as education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, government, business, labor, energy, environment and social issues. His work has also appeared in Government Executive, the Columbus Dispatch, Girlfriends magazine, Bleacher Report and the Ashtabula Star Beacon, among others.