WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the House of Representatives passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with measures that begin to take action on the PFAS contamination crisis. This action by the House follows the Senate’s vote on its version of the NDAA that also included provisions to address PFAS pollution. Both bills included important provisions to phase out the military’s use of firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals, which has led to contamination of water supplies for millions of Americans.
“Communities across the country are suffering from devastating health effects. We are thrilled that the House has taken bold action to turn off the tap on the military’s use of these dangerous toxic chemicals and to begin to clean up the mess. We applaud the sponsors of the PFAS amendments and look forward to working with them as the NDAA bill moves to conference,” said Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Acting Director Liz Hitchcock.
Last year Washington state passed two first-in-nation laws to restrict the use of these “forever chemicals” in firefighting foam and food packaging, and other states have since followed suit. But the need for action at the federal level has become increasingly pressing.
“We are pleased to see Congress following the lead of states in addressing this public health crisis. For too long, states and communities have been left holding the bag when it comes to cleaning up PFAS pollution. These new provisions will not only turn off the tap on PFAS from military firefighting foam but will also start to force polluters and manufacturers to clean up their mess,” said Sarah Doll, Executive Director of Safer States.
“Washington state led the nation by banning PFAS in firefighting foam and we are glad to see Congress stepping up to stop its use in the military, a major source of PFAS pollution in drinking water across the country,” said Laurie Valeriano, Executive Director of Toxic-Free Future. “Safer effective alternatives to PFAS foams are in use all around the world. The military should be using them now to protect the health of communities and firefighters.”
Military use of firefighting foam has led to drinking water contamination in the state of Washington, including near the naval bases on Whidbey Island.
Dr. Stephen Swanson, resident of Coupeville, Whidbey Island, says, “The PFAS based firefighting foam on Navy property has poisoned our well. After three years on bottled water we’re still getting skin abscesses from showering and have high levels of these toxics in our blood.”
The amendments to the House NDAA bill that were adopted include:
- Requiring the EPA to list PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund law (CERCLA) within one year (Rep. Dingell-MI)
- Adding PFAS to the toxic pollutants list under section 307 of the Clean Water Act (Rep. Pappas-NH)
- A bloc of amendments that:
- Phase out military use of PFAS firefighting foams by 2025.
- Authorize an additional $5 million for the ATSDR study of PFAS.
- Ban PFAS from military food packaging.
- Require a GAO study of the Department of Defense response to military PFAS contamination.
- Require any incineration of PFAS materials to eliminate PFAS and ensure it is not emitted into the air.
- Require cooperative agreements between DOD and states for military cleanups of PFAS.
- Require DOD to share PFAS water monitoring information with adjacent communities.
- Include USGS monitoring for PFAS contamination.
The next step is for a conference committee to resolve the differences in the House version of the NDAA with the Senate version. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) will be a conferee as the chair of the House Armed Services Committee. We are looking for his leadership on the PFAS provisions given how Washington has led the nation, especially with respect to ensuring the ban on the use of PFAS firefighting foam by the military remains strong.