Farm Bureau says rural communities lack resources for new drinking water standards

The American Farm Bureau Federation is concerned how the Environmental Protection Agency’s new drinking water standards could impact rural communities.

Government Affairs Director Courtney Briggs tells Brownfield, “We do think that there needs to be a standard, but this is an incredibly hard level to meet.”

“We are particularly worried about how this is going to impact rural water community utilities that are going to have to pass on the cost of this rule to their ratepayers,” she says.

She says rural communities are disproportionately impacted because populations are smaller but publicly owned water utilities will still need to pay for costs that come with the per- and polyfluoralkyl substances, or PFAS, standards.

A separate proposal by the EPA designates the two most common ‘forever chemicals’ as hazardous materials.

Briggs says their members are urging lawmakers to exempt farmers from liability and provide financial relief to landowners if PFAS is found on farms or ranches.

“A lot of elected officials have been unaware of how PFOS is intersecting with agriculture because we are passive receivers, we do not use these chemicals,” she says.

Briggs says a risk assessment for biosolids, currently permitted by the EPA for farmland application, is the last action item for the Biden Administration’s PFAS strategic roadmap and is expected to be completed by this winter.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $9 billion to address PFAS and emerging contaminants. The administration’s Justice40 Initiative should direct 40 percent of investments to disadvantaged communities which would include rural communities.

AUDIO: Courtney Briggs, American Farm Bureau Federation

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