A Senate committee holds a hearing Wednesday about the federal government's role in the nation's growing PFAS crisis.
Federal regulators and advocates from Michigan and New Hampshire will testify on how the military helped spread the industrial toxins by using firefighting foams.
Affected residents are also flying in from around the country to watch the hearing and meet with lawmakers, including New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, who sits on the committee.
Kristen Mello of Westfield, Mass., is part of the group traveling to Washington. She says she and her neighbors have struggled for years with health problems she believes are linked to PFAS contamination left behind by state and military operations.
"We can convey the message of urgency – that this crisis is not upcoming; it's ongoing,” Mello says of the Senate hearing. “We're in the thick of it. We need some action."
Mello’s group, known as WRAFT, has been inspired by the success of New Hampshire’s Testing for Pease.
That group formed after extremely high levels of PFAS turned up in drinking water at the former Pease Air Force base in Portsmouth. The group’s co-founder, Andrea Amico, will testify at Wednesday’s hearing.
At home, Mello says she still wants more health resources and clean water for her town – which she knows the Senate may not be able to provide directly.
But she hopes hearings like Wednesday’s will raise awareness as the federal government and states begin addressing PFAS contamination more directly.
"We want to make absolutely certain that we show that that matters to us, that it's important enough for us to drop everything to make sure that everyone knows we're paying attention,” Mello says. “Especially before an election – this matters."
The Senate hearing follows a similar one in the House earlier this month. And it comes amid more federal funding for PFAS health studies and clean-up.