EWG applauds House bill to set deadlines for military facilities to clean up ‘forever chemicals’

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Working Group today applauded Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) for introducing legislation to set cleanup deadlines for Defense Department facilities contaminated with the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

The Filthy 50 Act, introduced by Speier, chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel panel, would direct the Defense Department to clean up 50 installations within five years, including 12 sites where PFAS detections exceed 1 million parts per trillion, or ppt, in groundwater. The bill would require all other military installations to clean up within a decade, and provide $10 billion in funding.

PFAS are a large and pervasive family of fluorinated chemicals, some of which have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm, immune system damage and other serious health problems.

EWG has confirmed the presence of PFAS at 328 military facilities, although hundreds of additional facilities might be contaminated.

“Although the Defense Department has known that toxic PFAS have been building up in the blood of service members and residents of military communities for decades, the PFAS plumes flowing from these facilities have not been cleaned up,” said Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs. “Congress needs to give the Defense Department clear marching orders: Clean up PFAS pollution.”

He added, “Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Speier, the Defense Department would have the deadlines needed to protect our service members, their families and their neighbors from these toxic ‘forever chemicals.’”

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) introduced the upper chamber’s companion legislation in early June.

An EWG analysis of Defense Department records reveals nine of the 50 installations with some of the highest PFAS detections are beginning to develop cleanup plans.

But there are no completed cleanup plans at sites with the highest detections, including England Air Force Base in Louisiana, Naval Air Station China Lake in California, Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in South Carolina, and Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. Each of these bases has reported a detection greater than 2 million ppt in groundwater.

Pentagon officials have reported to Congress that it could take 30 years or more to clean up PFAS pollution.

“Defense communities should not have to wait decades for cleanup,” Faber said.

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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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