ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Setting a national drinking water standard for what have been referred to as “forever chemicals” will be important in addressing contamination at military bases and communities throughout the U.S., witnesses said Wednesday during a congressional hearing.

New Mexico Environment Secretary Jim Kenney was among those who testified about the contamination, which is linked to a class of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

New Mexico is determining the extent of toxic plumes from past firefighting activities at two U.S. Air Force bases. The work will take another year to complete, but officials have said samples already show levels that exceed the health advisory set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Kenney said he can't protect New Mexicans without a federal regulatory framework for the chemicals.

“The EPA drinking water health advisory from 2016 was a great start, but it's now 2021 and there's no regulatory certainty for states and our communities,” he said. “No person should suffer the negative health effects of PFAS — not in New Mexico or elsewhere.”

Similar contamination has been found at numerous sites around the U.S., prompting lawsuits by New Mexico, other states and water utilities.

An environmental official from West Virginia and a Pennsylvania mother also testified about the effects of the contamination in their states.

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