Defense Bill Heading to House Floor Includes Provision Banning Toxic Firefighting Foam on Military Bases

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For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, June 13, 2019

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives will soon consider a must-pass piece of legislation that includes a provision to prohibit the use on military installations of firefighting foam containing the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS.

The House Armed Services Committee, led by Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), included a number of provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 aimed at dealing with the ongoing PFAS contamination crisis, including a provision that will bar the Pentagon from using firefighting foam made with PFAS chemicals on military installations by Sept. 30, 2029.

The Senate version of the NDAA would require the military to cease procurement of firefighting foams made with PFAS chemicals by Oct. 1, 2022, and prohibit use on military installations by Oct. 1, 2023, with the exception of ocean-going vessels.

“Everyone agrees that it’s time to end most military uses of firefighting foam made with PFAS chemicals,” said Colin O’Neil, EWG’s legislative director. “The provisions in the House version of the NDAA passed out of committee move us closer to that goal. The Senate version of the NDAA gets us there even faster.”

Other PFAS-related provisions included in the House’s defense authorization bill include:

  • A provision that allows the National Guard to gain access to environmental remediation funds.
  • A provision that codifies the Defense Department’s policy prohibiting the uncontrolled releases of fluorinated firefighting foams.
  • More than $121 million in dedicated environmental remediation funding to address PFAS-contaminated drinking water near military installations.
  • A provision, championed by Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), to fund blood tests for military firefighters to check for PFAS exposure.
  • An amendment championed by Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Doug Lamborn (R-Col.) that prohibits the use of fluorinated firefighting foams in training exercises on military installations.
  • An amendment championed by Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) that allows the Defense Department to provide clean water to farmers near military installations with PFAS-contaminated ground water.
  • A requirement that by Jan. 31, 2025, the Navy publish a military specification for a fluorine-free firefighting foam.

In March, EWG released a report mapping 106 U.S. military sites where drinking water or groundwater is contaminated with PFAS chemicals at levels that exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s health guideline.

EWG has called on the Trump administration and Congress to take steps to protect the public from further exposure to PFAS chemicals, including:

  • Identify PFAS pollution sources and regulate discharges into the air and water.
  • Identify the scope of PFAS contamination through regular testing and monitoring.
  • Set a legal limit for PFAS in drinking water.
  • Take PFAS out of consumer products.
  • Stop approving new PFAS chemicals.
  • Set and enforce PFAS cleanup standards.
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