Washington lawmakers vote to restrict sale of firefighting foam
State Senate Bill 6413 would limit the sale of firefighting foams with polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl chemicals, which have been found in drinking water
By Hal Bernton
The Seattle Times
WASHINGTON — The state Senate passed legislation Saturday to sharply restrict the sale of a class of firefighting foams linked to water pollution in Washington and elsewhere in the nation.
State Senate Bill 6413, approved 39-8, would largely prohibit — as of 2020 — the sale of firefighting foams containing polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl chemicals — known as PFAS. Those chemicals have been in found in some drinking-water wells on Whidbey Island, Issaquah, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Airway Heights near Fairchild Air Force Base.
“Hopefully, with this bill passing, we will limit future contamination,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, a Sequim Democrat who sponsored the bill.
If the bill passes both chambers, Washington would become the first state to restrict the sale of firefighting foams with PFAS, said Ivy Sager-Rosenthal of Toxic-Free Future, a group that advocated for the bill.
The bill now heads to the House, where a companion bill passed out of committee.
The foams are used for fighting oil-based fires, but alternative foams without the chemicals also are available.
The federal government has not approved the use of the alternatives for the national airport system or military bases, so the legislation includes an exemption for such facilities that fall under these federal regulations.
Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, proposed an unsuccessful amendment to also exempt Washington refineries.
PFAS raises health concerns that include elevated risks for kidney and testicular cancers. The chemical also has caused concern among firefighters, who have higher rates of cancer than the overall U.S. population, according to a joint study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the University of California, Davis.
The legislation would not prevent a fire department that favors the firefighting foam with the chemical from buying it before the sale deadline, and stockpiling it for future use. But in Washington, some fire departments already are switching to foams that don’t include PFAS, according to Michael White, legislative liaison for the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters.
Their personal protective equipment may also contain the chemical, and the legislation would require manufacturers who sell the firefighting personal protective equipment to provide written notice at the time of sale if PFAS is used in this gear.
Copyright 2018 The Seattle Times