GAO Report Confirms PFAS Cleanup Cost Will Increase Significantly, Calls on Pentagon to Release Full Cost

Padilla bill includes $10 billion investment to clean up toxic PFAS chemicals in military communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finds the costs of cleaning up the toxic chemicals, known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), from Defense Department (DOD) installations will “increase significantly” beyond the amount DOD has already estimated. The GAO reported that the DOD has not reported future PFAS cost estimates in its annual environmental report to Congress.

Last month, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced the Clean Water for Military Families Act and the Filthy Fifty Act. Both pieces of legislation direct the Defense Department to identify and clean up PFAS chemicals at U.S. military installations with some of the highest detections across the country.

“Servicemembers, veterans, and their families have made incredible sacrifices on behalf of our nation,” said Senator Padilla. “We must honor their sacrifice by accelerating cleanup efforts to protect military families and their neighbors who live near these toxic sites. This report makes clear we have no time to waste: we need to provide DOD with the resources and deadlines to clean up these toxic chemicals once and for all.”

According to the GAO report, “DOD estimates that its future PFAS investigation and cleanup costs will total more than$2.1 billion beginning in fiscal year 2021 alone, which is in addition to $1.1 billion in actual PFAS costs incurred through fiscal year 2020. These costs will likely increase significantly, because DOD is still in the early phases of its PFAS investigation.” Senator Padilla and Gillibrand’s bills will set deadlines and provide the resources DOD needs to complete this vital work.  

It’s estimated the cost of cleaning up PFAS chemicals will increase once the cleanup process begins, “As discussed previously in this report, as of the end of fiscal year 2020, no installations had fully completed the investigation phases and moved to the cleanup phases of the environmental restoration processAccording to the military departments, they generally have only enough information to estimate PFAS environmental restoration costs through the remedial investigation… As a result, DOD expects the amount of environmental liabilities it reports in future annual financial statements to increase significantly due to PFAS.”

In June, Padilla attended a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to examine the issue of PFAS contamination in communities across the country. Witnesses praised Padilla’s effort to mitigate the serious issue of PFAS chemicals at U.S. military installations and in the nearby communities. Padilla remains committed to ensuring clean drinking water and a pollution free environment for our nation’s military families. 

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