Stars and Stripes: Legislation aims to clean up PFAS at military sites
By Kevin Hassler
Legislation has been introduced in Congress to provide $10 billion to help clean up contamination at the so-called “Filthy Fifty” military bases across the country.
Vance Air Force Base, Tinker AFB and Altus AFB are on the list due to the use of firefighting foam throughout the years. The Clean Water for Military Families Act and the Filthy Fifty Act would provide $10 billion to the Department of Defense to clean up polyflouroalkyl substances (PFAS) that can contaminate drinking water.
Officials at Vance have been dealing with the issue already, according to Terri Schaeffer, chief of public affairs, and have found no contamination in groundwater.
“The Air Force doesn’t comment on proposed legislation,” Schaeffer said. “At Vance and other installations, the Department of the Air Force is taking a proactive response to the possible impacts of PFOS/PFOA on drinking water supplies. Following the federal (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act) process, the Air Force is identifying drinking water supplies on and off installations where PFOS/PFOA is present at levels above the EPA’s lifetime health advisory for PFOS/PFOA in drinking water, and is taking action.
“To date at Vance, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center has completed testing of drinking water wells in affected areas and has found no leakage from our fire suppression areas into the local groundwater.”
In addition, Vance no longer uses the firefighting foam linked to PFOS/PFOA concerns.
The legislation in Congress was introduced earlier this month by U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D.-N.Y.
According to a news release from Padilla’s office, “the Clean Water for Military Families Act would require the Department of Defense to conduct investigations and remediate PFAS contamination at and surrounding DOD installations in the U.S. and state-owned National Guard facilities.”
The bill authorizes the one-time, $10 billion expenditure for the cleanup effort.
“The Filthy Fifty Act would help expedite the testing, cleanup, removal and remediation of PFAS at all U.S. military installations and state-owned National Guard facilities by setting testing and cleanup deadlines for PFAS remediation at the most contaminated DOD sites in the country,” according to a news release from Padilla’s office.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a news release ensuring clean water has been a priority of his.
“Making sure Enid and all Oklahoma communities have — and continue to have — clean, reliable drinking water is a longstanding priority of mine,” Inhofe said. “Earlier this year, I authored key provisions in the bipartisan drinking water legislation and have continued working to expand water infrastructure throughout the state. In Enid, I’ve also been working with the community to ensure affordable long-term water contracts at Kaw Lake.”
With respect to PFAS contamination at military bases, Inhofe said he has worked in that effort previously.
“In addition, taking meaningful steps to remediate past contamination from PFAS on military bases is something I’ve worked on consistently in the (National Defense Authorization Act) each year,” Inhofe said. “In the past few years, my legislation has included landmark steps to promote cooperation between DOD and state and local officials when addressing PFAS and provided $15 million for a Centers for Disease Control study. Further, my legislation has provided additional resources to DOD for PFAS remediation.”
The Clean Water for Military Families Act and the Filthy Fifty Act were introduced June 8 and are pending in the U.S. Senate.
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