Defense Bill Fails To Address PFAS Pollution in Kentucky

WASHINGTON – A defense spending bill passed by the Senate today excludes key provisions designed to reduce ongoing releases of the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, remove PFAS from tap water and clean up legacy PFAS contamination.

The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020, or NDAA, dropped provisions:

  • Restricting PFAS discharges from manufacturers into drinking water supplies under the Clean Water Act.
  • Requiring water utilities to reduce the amount of PFAS in tap water under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Designating PFAS as “hazardous substances” under the federal Superfund law that requires cleanup of the most contaminated sites.

The final NDAA will phase out the military’s use of PFAS in firefighting foam and food packaging, expand reporting of PFAS discharges through the Toxic Release Inventory, and expand monitoring for PFAS in tap water and ground water. The bill also requires that the Department of Defense properly incinerate firefighting foams and expands DOD cleanup programs to include National Guard bases.

But the bill falls far short of the progress needed for Kentucky communities struggling with contaminated water. Half of the tap water supplies tested by Kentucky environmental officials were contaminated with the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS, the state recently announced.

EWG’s own tests of drinking water in Louisville detected 10 different PFAS compounds. 

“When your water is polluted with toxic PFAS, it’s not much comfort to know who is polluting it,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “Although it’s good news that the Defense Department will finally phase out PFAS in firefighting foam and food packaging, communities desperately need Congress to tackle industrial PFAS releases into the air and water and to require DOD to clean up legacy PFAS pollution at Kentucky’s military installations.”

In January, the House will consider the PFAS Action Act (H.R. 535), which designates PFAS as hazardous substances and regulates PFAS air releases, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not pledged to consider the House bill.

 “The right way to tackle PFAS in our tap water is to stop further discharges into our drinking water, and to force polluters and the Pentagon to pay their fair share for cleanup – and none of that will happen until Congress designates PFAS as hazardous substances,” Faber said. “By failing to reduce ongoing PFAS releases and clean up legacy PFAS pollution, Congress has so far shirked one its most basic responsibilities – keeping us safe.”


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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