Here’s what Pa. and Washington are doing to fight PFAS contamination in drinking water | Wednesday Morning Coffee

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Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
So we’ll admit it up front: Up until a couple of months ago, we’d never heard of PFAScontamination. Nor were we aware of the huge environmental and public health hazard it posed to people who have to contend with it in their drinking water.

In this, we suspect we’re like a lot of Pennsylvanians.

Unless you live in suburban Philadelphia (or some other afflicted locale) where, thanks, in part, to some former military installations, the problem is particularly pronounced, you’re either unaware or unaffected, or both.

The bad news is that the problem is far more widespread than just Pennsylvania. But the good news is that lawmakers across the state and across the nation are mobilizing to fight it.

First up, some basics: PFAS is the umbrella term for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

These man-made chemicals are used in everything from fire-fighting foam to clothing and nonstick pans. They have been linked to cancer and other serious health problems, and environmental and public health advocates want faster cleanup and strict guidelines for the allowable limits of the chemicals in drinking water.

At the state level, officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Health have asked for $1.4 million in the 2019-20 state budget to hire new staff, including epidemiologists, chemists, and toxicologists, to fight PFAS contamination, as The Capital-Star’s Stephen Caruso reported in February.

In an interview with The Capital-Star, freshman state Sen. Maria Collett, a Montgomery County Democrat whose district includes Willow Grove and afflicted communities, said she’s sponsoring a pair of measures aimed at fighting PFAS contamination.

“It’s not just a Pennsylvania problem,” Collett said during an interview in her Harrisburg office last month.

And she’s right – it isn’t.

Reporters at the Michigan Advance, the Capital-Star’s sister site in the Wolverine State, have been doing top-shelf reporting on the very real threat that PFAS poses to the drinking water of thousands of people.

In Washington, such Pennsylvania lawmakers as Democratic U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, and Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, of Bucks County’s 1st District, also have found common ground on the issue.

As we reported Tuesday, Dean and Fitzpatrick, along with U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-2nd District, were among nearly two-dozen members of Congress, of both parties, who sent a letter to a House Appropriations Committee sub-committee, asking budget-writers to kick loose $10 million in already authorized cash to study the depth and breadth of the contamination nationwide.

Fitzpatrick has emerged as a forceful voice for regulation and remediation, partnering with U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat, to press for action from the Trump White House and the U.S. Senate.Last week, bipartisan members of a U.S. Senate committee told Trump White House officials that the administration was not moving swiftly enough to deal with what’s widely considered a looming public health threat. As our Washington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender reported, senators of both parties pressed for action.

There’s a lot of talk these days about Congress’ polarization and its inability to get even the most basic tasks – like passing an annual budget  — accomplished.

In his 2013 book about Ronald Reagan and the late U.S. House Speaker Tip O’NeillTip and the Gipper,” MSNBC host Chris Matthews captured the bipartisanship that helped a Boston Democrat and a California Republican solve some of the big issues of the day.

“It’s easy from the vantage point of today to mock all those Irish jokes and the swapping of stories between the president and the speaker,” Matthews, a former O’Neill staffer wrote. “But I was there, and the plain truth is they kept the conversation going when no progress seemed possible.”

We’re a long way from those halcyon days – if they ever existed at all. Yet, as totally dispiriting as the idea of contaminated water is, it’s still good to know that there are some baseline causes that both Republicans and Democrats can rally around and get some stuff done.

Our Stuff:
Elizabeth Hardison
 has a look at the results of Tuesday’s special election in W.Pa.’s 37th District, where Democrat Pam Iovino defeated Republican D.Raja to increase the Democratic edge in the state Senate.
New Captal-Star correspondent Nick Field hit a massive criminal justice reform rally in Philly that included rapper Meek Mill and CNN’s Van Jones.
Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes took a look at Pittsburgh’s gun ban – and what repercussions that might have in Harrisburg.

On the Opinion side of the house, Capital-Star Opinion Contributor Anwar Curtis looks at a Harrisburg pastor’s efforts to encourage successful dads.

Elsewhere:
A Philly city councilwoman has asked authorities to prevent fraud by one of her colleaguesThe Inquirer reports.
The Post-Gazette has the tale of the tape in Democrat Pam Iovino’s special election win.
Bigger classes and higher tuition – those are among the implications of Harrisburg Area Community College’s new budget, PennLive reports.
BillyPenn profiles the veteran journalist who will draw up guidelines for writing about gun violence.

What Happens on Twitter (Timeless Wisdom Edition):

SEPTA 
has ‘quietly decriminalized turnstile jumpingWHYY-FM reports.
A subsidiary of Lehigh Valley Health Network is the 3rd nonprofit to sue Allentown, challenging a $1 million tax billThe Morning Call reports.
PoliticsPA has its own take on the 37th Senate District special election.
Stateline.org looks at how states are using ‘Opportunity Zones’ to lure investment. Pennsylvania has had the ‘Keystone Opportunity Zone‘ for years.
A majority of Americans don’t trust President Trump on healthcare, a new Politico/Morning Consult poll has found.

Here’s Your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On.
1 p.m.: The House Democratic Policy Committee takes its show on the road to Philadelphia for a hearing about maternal care.

WolfWatch.
Gov. Tom Wolf 
heads to north-central Pa. to tout his RestorePA initiative. At 10 a.m, he’s in Millersburg for a walking tour. And at noon, he’s in Shamokin to talk blight remediation.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
A bushel of best wishes goes out this morning to our old pal, Wesley Robinson, in the office of Sen. Vince Hughes; longtime Friend o’the BlogJohnna Pro, of Pittsburgh, and Claudia Vargas of The Philadelphia Inquirer, all of whom celebrate today. Congratulations and enjoy the day, all.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an old favorite from BritPoppers, James, that we just heard for the first time in ages. It’s still so good. It’s ‘Sometimes.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Carolina beat Toronto 4-1 on Tuesday, moving into the first Wild Card slot in the Eastern Conference.

And now you’re up to date 

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.

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