Protect Oregon’s drinking water from toxic PFAS: Ask Congressman Walden to designate PFAS as a “hazardous chemical”

Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a category of hazardous chemicals that are currently designated as “contaminants” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  To protect human health, Congress must designate PFAS as hazardous chemicals, which will speed up the identification, cleanup and monitoring of PFAS contaminated sites under federal Superfund law.

What are PFAS and why should you be concerned?

PFAS are a group of 47,000 synthetic chemicals that are known as ‘forever chemicals’ due to their persistent nature in the environment. They easily move through air and soil and contaminate clean water sources, and because they do not break down, they accumulate in our bodies and in wildlife and aquatic species over time. Adverse human health problems associated with PFAS include cancer, kidney disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, preeclampsia, low birth weight and reduced effectiveness of vaccines. PFAS contamination is widespread–according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, PFAS are found in the blood of 97% of Americans. 

PFAS also harms wildlife and aquatic life–PFAS is found in arctic ice and polar bears; Washington State passed legislation to curb PFAS in part due to its impact on resident orcas; testing in Michigan led the state to issue warnings to not eat deer from certain areas; and the list goes on.

PFAS have been used since the 1940s due to their nonstick, and heat, water, and oil resistant nature. One of the two most widely studied of the 47,000 chemicals are PFOA, which was used to make Teflon cookware nonstick, and PFOS, which was used to make Scotchgard water repellent. Both of these chemicals were voluntarily phased out by companies in the early 2000s, but PFAS are increasingly appearing in other consumer products such as “compostable” dishware, stain-resistant clothing, and food packaging. They have been widely used in firefighting foams which has led to contamination of almost every military base, commercial airport, and fire training center.

In Oregon, limited testing has been done, but two sites were reported to be contaminated with PFAS this year, and 6 other industrial sites have been suspected of PFAS discharge. Drinking water in Klamath Falls has tested positive for PFAS, probably due to firefighting foam used at a nearby airport.

What Congress can do

PFAS are toxic, are widespread in the environment, and last forever. One immediate action that the U.S. Congress can take this September is to correctly label PFAS as “hazardous substances” (rather than “pollutants”). This will expedite action to identify and clean up contamination.

What you can do

By September 6, let your U.S. Senator and U.S. Congressman know that you support designating PFAS as a “hazardous substance” under the Superfund law (and let them know that the Senate PFAS phase-out plan is stronger than the House phase-out plan and will result in more action sooner). Oregon Congressman Greg Walden is an especially important voice because he sits on a key committee that will soon decide whether to designate PFAS as a hazardous substance. If you live in the Congressman Walden’s District (the 2nd District of Oregon), please phone Congressman Greg Walden at his DC office: 202-225-6730. Let his staff know that you are a constituent and that you want Congressman Walden to support designating PFAS as a “hazardous substance” under the Superfund law. Your phone call will make a difference here in Oregon by speeding up cleanup of the Klamath Falls site among many other sites that require attention. 

Thank you for taking action!

Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
Water News Featured Toxics-Free Environments Toxics in Water Series Water Conservation Rural Partnerships Agriculture Air Quality Climate Protection OCAP-Page Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Toxic Free Priorities OCAP News People Policy OEC News/Updates/Events Media/PR/Statements
Sort by
Photo of firefighter using foam to put out a car fire

Emerging toxics: PFAS in groundwater

By Jamie Pang South, Environmental Health Program Director, and Stacey Dalgaard, Water Outreach Director What is a “forever chemical”? Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl substances, known collectively as PFAS, are a class of synthetic, man-made chemicals that do not break down in the environment and build up in our blood and organs. This has earned them the name “forever chemicals,” and they have now been
September 25, 2020, 5:48 pm


Road-trips, Representatives and Adventures in Eastern Oregon

Summer is road-trip time, and recently, OEC staff Karen Lewotsky (Water Policy and Rural Partnerships Director) and Morgan Gratz-Weiser (Legislative Director) headed southeast across Oregon to Crane, with stops along the way in Tumalo and Prineville. Why Crane? The gathering in Crane was organized by leading legislators and partner organizations Verde, Willamette
September 10, 2021, 8:24 pm


New report elevates water justice in Oregon

A new report from the Oregon Water Futures Project reveals water challenges facing communities across the state, from water shortages, to living with unsafe water, watching sacred ecosystems disappear, and critical information gaps about clean water during emergencies. The report highlights key findings from community
September 2, 2021, 11:10 pm


Strengthening Oregon’s Climate Protection Program

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is getting closer to finalizing rules for a new Climate Protection Program. Over the past year, DEQ has made a number of positive changes to strengthen the rules; however, a few key policy design features still hang in the
August 31, 2021, 10:07 pm


silhouette of person in tractor working a field

Centering Frontline Voices: Oregon OSHA Enacts Heat & Smoke Rules

In a summer already marked by unprecedented temperatures and a devastating wildfire season, OEC and its partners pressed Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to adopt a health-first standard when it comes to protecting vulnerable workers from climate hazards. As part of EO-20-04 (OCAP), Governor Kate Brown directed Oregon OSHA to develop standards in order to protect frontline workers from excessive heat
August 11, 2021, 3:57 pm


Oregon OSHA Enacts Emergency Heat Rules

A Joint Press Release – July 8, 2021 Contacts: Ira Cuello-Martinez, PCUN, (503) 851-5774 Kate Suisman, Northwest Justice Workers Project
July 13, 2021, 6:19 pm


Oregon Climate Action Plan: 2021 Progress Report

March 26, 2021, 12:11 am


Celebrating Year 1 of the Oregon Climate Action Plan

March 10, 2021, 7:51 pm


Statement on Protecting Oregon’s Democratic Process

Today, Oregon Environmental Council sent a strong statement to Oregon’s legislative leadership
January 21, 2021, 10:49 pm


OHA Report: Climate Crisis a Current and Growing Threat to the Health of Oregonians

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) just released its “Climate and Health in Oregon 2020” report, documenting the public health impacts from climate change across Oregon. The report is the first thorough analysis of the health effects of climate change in Oregon since 2014, and is the first of three OHA deliverables directed under EO 20-04, the Oregon Climate Action Plan. The report findings are grim, confirming what OEC has been saying all along– that climate change is a public he
January 5, 2021, 8:15 pm


4 Replies to "Protect Oregon’s drinking water from toxic PFAS: Ask Congressman Walden to designate PFAS as a “hazardous chemical”"

  • Darise Weller
    August 27, 2019 (7:44 pm)

    In Oregon we are bombarded with some of the highest toxic levels of many chemicals and particulates in the nation. It’s so beyond the time that our legislature needs to do much more about protecting their constiuents from toxic exposures.

  • John Hurd
    August 29, 2019 (3:27 pm)

    Water is life.

  • Concerned
    October 30, 2019 (10:32 pm)

    Why isnt Intel sites on the suspected industrial site lists when PFAS is a known byproduct of semiconductor manufacturing? I also believe that this has been confirmed by CWS.