By Treven Pyles
Posted on June 28th, 2021
From Alaska to Florida, hundreds of military bases across the country have been contaminated by PFAS-containing materials such as firefighting foam. Although these new bills would provide much-needed deadlines and important resources for remediating PFAS at military facilities, for those exposed, the damage is irreversible.
As we have previously explained in our blogs, PFAS are called "forever chemicals" because they don't break down in the environment and can accumulate in the human body over the years. Research shows they can lead to adverse human health effects, such as thyroid hormone disruption, kidney disease, liver damage, auto-immune disorders, and cancer.
In 2016, the EPA set a combined limit of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS, the two most common PFAS. Data release updates from the Department of Defense show that the number of PFAS-contaminated military sites has grown to nearly 700 from 401.
U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen, Maggie Hassan, Alex Padilla, and Kirsten Gillibrand introduced two much-needed pieces of legislation to help accelerate clean up and remediation of PFAS chemicals at all U.S. military installations:
Introduced on June 8, the Filthy Fifty Act would help expedite the testing, cleanup, removal, and remediation of PFAS at all U.S. military installations by setting deadlines for PFAS remediation at the worst polluted DOD sites in the nation - two years for PFAS testing and completion of all physical construction for remediation within 10 years of the law's enactment.
The bill prioritizes 50 military bases for remediation - those with the highest levels of contamination, as follows:
Growing evidence that continued exposure to certain PFAS increases the risk of certain cancers has prompted Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Alex Padilla to introduce legislation that would force the Department of Defense to study and clean up per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances at U.S. military installations where the dangerous contaminants are prevalent.
The bill would require the Department of Defense to investigate and remediate PFAS contamination at and surrounding DOD installations in the U.S. and state-owned National Guard facilities as well. To ensure military families have access to safe drinking water, the legislation authorizes a one-time, $10 billion investment for PFAS cleanups starting next fiscal year.
It is necessitous that we take every step necessary to monitor, remediate and prevent PFAS contamination at the bases where our service members and military families reside - but for many of them, the damage had already been done. Thousands of service members and their families (spouses and children) have developed cancer and other health problems due to continuous or repeated contact with these toxic substances.
The Department of Defense has used PFAS-based firefighting foam since its development in 1963, for difficult-to-extinguish class B hydrocarbons fuel fires such as oil, diesel, and aviation fuels, and also for maintenance, testing, and training. As a result, these chemicals saturated the ground at hundreds of military installations where thousands of service members and their families lived and worked. Military members, their families and nearby residents have since reported cases of: