Gov. Jared Polis yesterday signed five bills to better protect firefighters and Colorado communities from PFAS exposure, extend workers’ compensation benefits to first responders who experience audible trauma, and provide critical health benefits to wildland firefighters.
HB20-1119, sponsored by Representatives Tony Exum and Lois Landgraf, sets stringent guidelines for the testing and use of PFAS-based firefighting foam in order to protect firefighters and prevent the chemicals from entering Colorado’s groundwater sources. The bill also requires the state to certify and register every facility that possesses, tests or uses PFAS fire fighting substances. SB20-181, sponsored by Representatives Jonathan Singer and Hugh McKean creates a grant program to protect communities from PFAS contamination.
PFAS, or perfluorinated chemicals, have been used in firefighting foams and in the manufacture of Teflon, Scotchgard and other industrial products. The chemicals are extraordinarily persistent in the environment, and neither break down nor degrade naturally, and pass undetected through water and wastewater treatment systems.
“Our firefighters and crisis response professionals always put our communities first and are often exposed to dangerous or traumatic situations,” Exum (D-Colorado Springs) said in a news release.
“The legislation the governor signed today will protect our firefighters and our groundwater from toxic PFAS chemicals and provide important benefits to our 911 dispatchers, social workers and so many other Coloradans who respond to dangerous situations.”
SB20-026, sponsored by Exum and Singer, extends workers’ compensation benefits to crisis response professionals who “audibly witness” death or serious bodily injury, or the immediate aftermath of these events while on the job. Previously, those diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of audible trauma (as opposed to visual trauma) were not eligible.
“This bill guarantees that when any of us is at our worst, that our first responders will be at their best,” said Singer (D-Longmont). “Coronavirus has forced many Coloradans into crisis, and this bill guarantees whether or not our first responders hear or see the worst things imaginable, that the state of Colorado will have their back.”
SB20-057, sponsored by Representatives Marc Snyder and Lisa Cutter, provides wildland firefighters benefits for circulatory conditions in connection with a stressful or strenuous activity that took place while responding to an emergency. It also provides benefits for certain kinds of cancers to employees of the Division of Fire Prevention and Control, who respond to wildfires in Colorado.
“With the governor signing this bill today, our wildland firefighters, who confront enormous danger and face deadly health conditions as a result, will now have access to the critical health benefits they need,” said Snyder (D-Manitou Springs).
Polis signed the bills at Fire Station 8 in Colorado Springs.