KPBS: Sen. Padilla Proposes Bill To Clean Up Toxic Chemical On Military Bases

By Steve Walsh

Military bases across California, including some in San Diego, have tested positive for a toxic chemical. A bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla attempts to find the money to finally clean up the legacy of PFAS.

The Department of Defense has known for decades that a chemical found in aviation fire fighting foam contains potentially toxic polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which has been linked to cancer when found in groundwater, Padilla said.

“In California alone there are 62 facilities that are known or suspected to be a source of PFAS chemical contamination and that’s just California,” said Padilla, during a news conference to unveil a bill that would provide money for remediation.

At bases such as Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake the chemical has been found in groundwater at several times the acceptable limit. Most California military bases are on the list of facilities where there is potential contamination. That includes most bases in San Diego County, including Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and Naval Air Station North Island. The California National Guard also has 11 bases with potential contamination.

PFAS are most hazardous when they contaminate drinking water.

“In a lot of these places the drinking water is safe for now,” Padilla said. “And that is the good news but that doesn’t mean the chemicals aren’t in the ground or in the environment and they can impact drinking water supply over time.”

According to the California National Guard, the foam is still being used in older equipment, because no alternative has been earmarked. PFAS’ linger in the environment for decades. The problem has been finding money for clean up. Padilla’s bill’s bill would provide more money for testing but also $10 billion to get rid of the chemical.

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