Bills Introduced to Set Deadlines and Provide Resources for Cleanup of “Forever Chemicals” (PFAS) at U.S. Military Facilities

By B.N. Frank

In May the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was heavily criticized for replacing old “forever chemicals” with new ones.  Fortunately, last week one of its offices announced it would be taking actions to protect the public.  A bill has also been introduced to accelerate the cleanup of contaminated military sites.

From Environmental Working Group:

EWG applauds bills to set deadlines, provide resources for cleanup of ‘forever chemicals’ at military facilities

WASHINGTON – EWG today applauded Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) for introducing legislation to set cleanup deadlines and provide resources for Defense Department facilities contaminated with the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

The Filthy 50 Act, introduced by Gillibrand, a member of the Armed Services Committee, 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. All other military installations would have to be cleaned up within a decade. Defense Department installations.

PFAS are a large 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 may 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.

“Thanks to the leadership of Gillibrand and Padilla, the Defense Department will now have the deadlines and resources needed to protect our service members, their families and their neighbors from these toxic ‘forever chemicals.’”

EWG analysis of Defense Department records found that cleanup plans have begun to be developed at nine of the 50 installations with some of the highest PFAS detections.

No cleanup plans have been completed for the bases 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.

California has the most contaminated military installations at six and New York is home to four that DoD would be required to clean up under the legislation offered by Gillibrand and Padilla.

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.


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.

Image: Pixabay

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