Illinois took a first step toward reducing the use of firefighting foam containing harmful “forever chemicals” under a bill signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The bill aims to limit the use of one source of PFAS chemicals by banning its use for anything other than emergencies. Fire departments that want to conduct emergency drills or test the foam must take precautions that prevent the chemicals from reaching waterways.
The bill, a compromise between environmental groups, an association of fire chiefs and industry groups, does allows the chemicals use in an emergency. The foam is used for serious industrial fires like those that can occur at a refinery, chemical plant or another source of flammable liquids.
Separately, state officials found more than 100 drinking water systems across Illinois with some PFAS contamination, reported the Chicago Sun Times recently.
Business groups originally opposed the bill, saying deadlines initially proposed would phase out an effective product before a comparable one was created, said Mark Denzler, chief executive of the Illinois Manufacturers Association told the Chicago Sun Times.
Local fire departments used to train with PFAS foam but switched to alternatives because of the high cost of using the specialty foam on anything but a true disaster, said John Buckley, who works on legislative issues for the Illinois Fire Chief Association.
In addition to limiting the foam’s use in training exercises, departments will be required to report to the state any discharge or disposal of the product.