Amid reports that Florida military bases, including Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, have been identified as sites with some of the nation’s highest levels of PFAS contamination, Senator Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) has re-filed legislation (Senate Bill 492) to ensure Floridians with private wells are informed of potential threats to their water supply.
PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are man-made chemicals known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down over time. According to reports, PFASs in water sources is partly from firefighting foams and sprays used in training simulations by the military, and others. The persistent contaminants remain under debate, but some studies link the chemicals to higher rates of kidney and testicular cancer, higher cholesterol levels, suppressed immune systems and weakened antibody responses to vaccinations among children. To date, a total of 175 military sites nationwide are known to be contaminated by PFAS, including MacDill Air Force Base, Patrick Air Force Base, Tyndall Air Force Base, and Naval Air Station Jacksonville. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is currently investigating many potentially PFAS contaminated sites across the state. However, those with well-water may never know if a contamination was found nearby and if they should test their water supply for PFAS because they do not receive their water from a public water system.
If enacted, the legislation would require the Florida Department of Health to inform, in writing via the mail, residents with private wells who live within a one-mile radius of a groundwater contamination zone of their potential risk. Currently, 20% of Floridians receive their water from non-public water systems or private wells.
“Our citizens should be able to rely on their government to ensure they have access to the safe, clean drinking water they deserve,” stated Senator Janet Cruz. “It is common sense that the Department of Health should be required to inform all nearby residents quickly and efficiently of a potential issue to ensure their private water supply has not been exposed to dangerous chemicals. This legislation will put public safety first in order to protect the health and well-being of all Floridians.”
Senator Cruz previously filed this legislation for the 2019 Legislative Session in response to reports that state officials delayed informing Ocala residents of PFAS contamination for four months in 2018. The bill was not given a hearing.