WASHINGTON, D.C. — A provision cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to prohibit the Department of Defense from procuring firefighting foam that contains per- and polyfluoralkyl substances has passed the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act.
The measure would prohibit the DOD from doing so after Oct. 1, 2022.
Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel and is also a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has been working to see legislation passed that would battle PFAS contamination in New York and across the country.
Recently, it came to light that the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base property is one of 106 sites nationwide with contaminated groundwater.
While the public water system that serves the former base and its environs isn't affected, the private wells of four homes are being treated due to hazardous amounts of PFAS.
Fort Drum in Watertown and the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome and a Defense Logistics Agency site in Verona, both in Oneida County, are also on that list.
PFAS have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease and weakened childhood immunity.
A CLEAR LINK
“Toxic PFAS exposure is putting the health of New Yorkers and people across the country at risk,” Gillibrand said in a press release.
“Last year, I successfully fought to end the federal requirement for commercial airports to use PFAS firefighting foam, and it’s time for the DOD to do the same and end the use of PFAS foam on military airports and bases.
"In communities in New York and across the country, there is a clear link between the use of PFAS firefighting foam on military bases and dangerous levels of PFAS in the drinking water of surrounding communities."
Gillibrand, one of several Democrats who have announced an early run for president, called the continued use of the foam "unacceptable."
Congress, she said, "has an obligation to ensure the DOD is no longer buying and using this toxic foam. All Americans deserve clean water, and I will fight to ensure this critical measure passes the Senate as part of the final defense bill.”
The amendment was also sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).
Last week, Gillibrand introduced two new bipartisan bills that would combat PFAS contamination.
The first, with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), would require the EPA to set an enforceable drinking water standard for toxic PFAS chemicals.
The other bill, with Sens. Capito and Tom Carper (D-Del.), would identify and publicly share sources of PFAS emissions in New York and across the country.
In March, Gillibrand grilled federal officials on the health risks of PFAS during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, the release said, citing the devastating health concerns for New York residents in communities contaminated with PFAS such as Hoosick Falls and those surrounding Stewart and Gabreski Air National Guard bases.
Gillibrand helped secure $10 million in federal funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a nationwide study on PFAS health effects and also helped secure $20 million for PFAS cleanup in the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense-Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Act to communities that have suffered from PFAS contamination as a result of activity from the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard, according to the release.
She also led the push demanding that the Trump Administration release the Department of Health and Human Services study, that, she said, it was trying to keep secret and revealed PFAS poses a danger to human health at lower levels than the EPA was telling the public.
— Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.