As we look at the possibility of visitors returning to pristine Glacier Bay and Gustavus this year, we are still grappling with the not-so-little secret that Gustavus is not pristine. We have a major water contamination issue that many still haven’t heard of — PFAS.
Last year Sen. Jesse Kiehl and Rep. Sara Hannan introduced legislation that helped to fill critical gaps in how our Great State currently regulates PFAS chemicals. PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals that do not easily break down and have been widely used in industry and consumer products for decades. PFAS have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, infertility, high blood pressure, liver and kidney damage, and a host of other ailments. PFAS are key ingredients in firefighting foam that has long been used for fire suppression at airports across Alaska, where regular training with the foam has led to significant groundwater contamination.
The legislation introduced last year would have lowered the “action level” for key PFAS chemicals in drinking water in Alaska.In the past year, similar legislation was passed in many other states. These states are stepping up and taking action to protect residents and visitors in the absence of regulatory action at the federal level. Unfortunately, COVID-19 shut the Alaska legislature down early last session, and the considerable momentum that had quickly built for the bills died with the last legislative session. Now Kiehl and Hannan are preparing a similar set of PFAS bills to be introduced this session.It is time for Alaska to join the many other states across the nation who have passed stringent legislation to regulate these insidious chemicals.
Juneau Empire, 8 April 2021