VIDEO: Padilla Receives Praise for New Bill to Clean Up PFAS at Military Installations at EPW Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) participated in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to examine the issue of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in communities across the country.

During the hearing, Padilla questioned co-founder of Buxmont Coalition for Safer Water, Joanne Stanton, about the failures by the Department of Defense (DOD) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect Americans from toxic PFAS chemicals. Stanton discussed the urgency of getting DOD and EPA to clean up dangerous PFAS chemicals – including in and around military installations – and praised Padilla’s new legislation, the Clean Water for Military Families Act that would invest $10 billion to expedite clean up and protect military communities from toxic PFAS chemicals.

Senator Padilla is leading a joint effort with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to identify and clean up PFAS at U.S. military installations with some of the highest detections across the country.

WATCH: View Video of Padilla’s Questioning / Download Video of Padilla’s Questioning

Key Excerpts:

  • PADILLA: First of all, I deeply thank you for highlighting, in your testimony, the failures by the Department of Defense and the EPA to protect Americans from toxic PFAS chemicals. And believe me, I was moved by your testimony as a father of three young boys. So, I thank you for turning the injustices that you’ve experienced and that clearly you felt into action by pushing Congress and federal agencies to hold polluters accountable. And as you said in your testimony, even when it is the Department of Defense.
  • PADILLA: For decades, the Department of Defense knew that they were polluting toxic poisonous PFAS chemicals into the environment. And even after leading manufacturers voluntarily phased out production of P-F-O-S and P-F-O-A, the DOD still used firefighting foam containing PFAS, which has resulted in the widespread contamination around military sites, not just on the military sites, but in the surrounding communities. 
  • PADILLA: In California alone, there are 62 military facilities with a known or suspected release of PFAS chemicals. But the reality is, every military base or commercial airport in the country is contaminated to some extent. And yet, there’s been little to no progress in going back to clean it up.
  • PADILLA: Proud to share that yesterday I introduced a new bill, called the Clean Water for Military Families Act, which you acknowledged. This legislation would require the Department of Defense to conduct investigations and remediate the contamination in and around military installations. And it would authorize $10 billion for the Department of Defense to do so. Absent the legislation, at the current rate, it would take decades for the Department of Defense to clean up toxic PFAS, which is simply unacceptable.
  • STANTON: We need a sense of urgency. We need deadlines for cleanup. Right now, there’s no deadlines. Deny, minimize and delay has really been the motto that we have gotten from the Department of Defense. So, the legislation that you are introducing is going to help so many people, military families, host communities, to be able to provide deadlines for cleanup because right now that that’s not happening.
  • STANTON: Your legislation and the financing for that legislation is huge. And it’s going to make just such an important impact on our community. Because until this legacy pollution gets cleaned up, we are all at risk. You’re all at risk.

Full Padilla-Stanton exchange can be found below:

PADILLA: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you to all the witnesses. I want to ask a couple of questions to Ms. Stanton.

First of all, I deeply thank you for highlighting, in your testimony, the failures by the Department of Defense and the EPA to protect Americans from toxic PFAS chemicals. And believe me, I was moved by your testimony as a father of three young boys. So, I thank you for turning the injustices that you’ve experienced and that clearly you felt into action by pushing Congress and federal agencies to hold polluters accountable. And as you said in your testimony, even when it is the Department of Defense. 

For decades, the Department of Defense knew that they were polluting toxic poisonous PFAS chemicals into the environment. And even after leading manufacturers voluntarily phased out production of P-F-O-S and P-F-O-A, the DOD still used firefighting foam containing PFAS, which has resulted in the widespread contamination around military sites, not just on the military sites, but in the surrounding communities.

Good news is Congress has passed legislation requiring the Department of Defense to phase out the use of AFFF firefighting foams at military installations. And while this is a vital step to ensuring that Department of Defense adopts PFAS free alternatives, it does not address the Department of Defense’s legacy pollution. Nor does it protect communities who continue to suffer from that legacy contamination.

In California alone, there are 62 military facilities with a known or suspected release of PFAS chemicals. But the reality is, every military base or commercial airport in the country is contaminated to some extent. And yet, there’s been little to no progress in going back to clean it up.

So, Ms. Stanton, and again, just want to recognize your courage and your activism, to onus should not be on you to get the Department of Defense to clean up these harmful chemicals.

So, proud to share that yesterday I introduced a new bill, called the Clean Water for Military Families Act, which you acknowledged. This legislation would require the Department of Defense to conduct investigations and remediate the contamination in and around military installations. And it would authorize $10 billion for the Department of Defense to do so. Absent the legislation, at the current rate, it would take decades for the Department of Defense to clean up toxic PFAS, which is simply unacceptable. 

So, I invite you, Ms. Stanton, to share a little bit more not just to what needs to be done, but the urgency with which we need to act to get the Department of Defense to clean up its legacy pollution in and around military installations. And maybe even discuss for a few minutes how a CERCLA designation could help protect military families and their neighbors?

STANTON: Thank you. Thank you, Senator Padilla.

Basically, we’ve been hearing about, you know, processes and things like that. And – it just – you have to remember from the standpoint of a community member that’s been affected, we need to act quickly. We need a sense of urgency. We need deadlines for cleanup. Right now, there’s no deadlines. Deny, minimize and delay has really been the motto that we have gotten from the Department of Defense.

So, the legislation that you are introducing is going to help so many people, military families, host communities, to be able to provide deadlines for cleanup because right now that that’s not happening.

And the legacy pollution is unbelievable. We have two large PFAS plumes at both, one at each of our sites. Now, one of our sites was redeveloped over 20 years ago. So, we have a large PFAS plume lurking underneath of a park, a playground, a Gilda Radner cancer home, a baseball field. We have monitoring wells that have been so high of late, that they had to be turned into a pump and treat wells. And that’s at the base that they had closed, you know, full circle and it got opened up because of PFAS. 

So, we definitely need deadlines, we need, everybody just needs to remember this is a public health emergency. And everyone’s talking about processes and they’re all important, but there are lives at stake here. There are people that are suffering and dying. There’s a community that’s just about a mile north of the one base in Horsham that has really been hit hard lately. It’s a small community of only about 30 homes. And just in that home alone, there was two mothers that passed away within the past few weeks – trying to find my notes here on that community.

There’s two young mothers, the two young mother that just passed away. There’s three teenagers sick, two with cancer, one with thyroid disease. We have a 12-year-old that has ovarian cancer, her mother also has cancer. Okay, their next-door neighbor has kidney cancer, that’s just one neighborhood.

So, we really need protection, these PFAS plumes, even when we go to our meetings, and we hear the different levels, you know, one month the levels are lower in one area and higher and another, and the next month it’s just revers. It’s not getting cleaned up. I really don’t think that the Department of Defense is handling it well, they don’t know what to do, and nothing is happening because there are no deadlines.

So, your legislation and the financing for that legislation is huge. And it’s going to make just such an important impact on our community. Because until this legacy pollution gets cleaned up, we are all at risk. You’re all at risk. 

I mean, PFAS is everywhere. And it’s not just the drinking water. It’s not just the drinking water. It’s our wildlife. It’s our produce. Okay, we have had, you know, the sludge is being given away to Pennsylvania farmers as it is across the country as free fertilizer. And then we have our broccoli is turning up with high levels of PFAS, our wildlife, our deer, our fish. It’s just the never ending, it’s a never-ending cycle.

And the basis of it is that the Department of Defense is one of the biggest polluters of this and we have to start to address this legacy pollution. So, thank you.

PADILLA: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

For additional information on the hearing, click here.

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