Defense bill tackling 'forever chemicals' with funding boost, policy reforms becomes law

WASHINGTON – The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2022, which includes $517 million to clean up the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS and critical policy reforms for tackling PFAS contamination, was signed into law today by President Joe Biden.

“EWG applauds House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed and bipartisan champions in both chambers for fighting to protect service members and military communities from toxic PFAS, and holding the Pentagon accountable for cleaning up PFAS contamination,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs.

The final version of the defense authorization law includes PFAS provisions that will:

  • Require the Department of Defense to report to Congress with a schedule for PFAS cleanup at all military installations, National Guard facilities and formerly used defense sites where PFAS contamination has been identified, and provide a status report on 50 priority bases across the country
  • Require the DOD to test for PFAS within two years at hundreds of military installations, including formerly used defense sites and National Guard facilities where PFAS have been released
  • Require the DOD to publish and make publicly available results of drinking water and groundwater testing for PFAS conducted on or near military installations, formerly used defense sites and National Guard sites
  • Require that DOD publicly disclose plans for future PFAS testing and notify nearby public water systems, municipal governments and local cleanup advisory groups
  • Place a temporary moratorium on the unsafe incineration of firefighting foam containing PFAS and materials contaminated by PFAS until the secretary of defense implements the Environmental Protection Agency’s interim destruction and disposal guidance, as well as the limits placed on DOD’s incineration of PFAS included in the FY 2020 NDAA law
  • Direct the Government Accountability Office independent watchdog to conduct a study of DOD purchasing policies of household goods that commonly contain PFAS and report on any progress made on prohibiting their purchase 
  • Create a DOD PFAS task force to coordinate response to the chemicals
  • Authorize an additional $15 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to continue studying the health exposure of defense communities affected by PFAS
  • Authorize $15 million for PFAS-based firefighting foam replacement, disposal and cleanup technology
  • Provide $15 million for PFAS remediation and disposal technology
  • Require the DOD to promote the prevention of aqueous film-forming foam spills and cleanup guidance for implementation across the military departments.

Faber added, “Congress remains as determined as ever to address the growing PFAS contamination crisis in the annual defense spending bill. It is up to the Biden-Harris administration to ensure that the Pentagon follows the clear orders of Congress.”

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

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