Retired Marine Jerry Ensminger Calls on House To Designate PFAS as “Hazardous Substances”

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For Immediate Release: 
Friday, July 12, 2019

WASHINGTON – Retired Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, who was stationed for many years at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina, lost his daughter Janey, in 1985, at the age of nine from leukemia after she was exposed to toxic chemicals while living on base.

Since then, Ensminger has been an outspoken critic of the federal government’s slow response to drinking water sources contaminated by industrial waste, including fluorinated chemicals, or PFAS.

The following is an open letter from Ensminger to the House of Representatives, urging members to support an amendment to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act authored by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), which would classify PFAS chemicals as “hazardous substances” under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund cleanup program.

July 12, 2019

Dear Representative:

Thank you for voting to approve critical PFAS amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020.

Today the House will consider Dingell Amendment 440 to the NDAA, which would designate PFAS as a hazardous substance under the Superfund law.

For decades, the Department of Defense has failed to clean up legacy PFAS pollution caused by the DOD’s use of fluorinated firefighting foam. DOD helped create fluorinated foam in the late 1960s and has known about their toxic effects since the 1970s. In the 1980s, DOD conducted its own studies, which linked PFAS to health concerns. In 2000 DOD officials were warned by EPA scientists that PFAS caused serious health effects at very low doses.

Yet, DOD continued to use these foams and is now resisting demands to clean up their legacy pollution. In particular, the DOD has cited the absence of a “hazardous substance” designation as one reason for delay.

Military families like mine deserve better. Designating PFAS as a hazardous substance under CERCLA will kick-start the PFAS cleanup process at dozens of military installations where high levels of PFAS have been detected.

PFAS chemicals have contaminated the drinking water at bases like Camp Lejeune, where I served, and nearby communities. They have been linked to serious health concerns, including cancer, harm to the reproductive system, and harm to the immune system. They do not break down in the environment and build up in our blood and organs. Yet, the Ford, Carter, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump Administrations have failed to act.

Congress must act to protect military families and nearby communities. Please support the Dingell Amendment #440 to the NDAA.


Jerome Ensminger


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