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 sources and clean up legacy PFAS contamination at military facilities.
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 communities struggling with contaminated water. PFAS has now been detected in the water of nearly 1,400 communities, including nearly 300 military installations.
Drinking water supplies at 10 Army installations in Oregon are contaminated with the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to newly released Department of Defense data obtained by EWG under the Freedom of Information Act.
“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 Oregon’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. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon is the senior Republican on the House committee overseeing PFAS regulation but has so far opposed H.R. 535.
“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 clean up – 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.