After leading 81 members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to ask House appropriators for increased funding to fight PFAS “forever chemicals” contamination, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) lauded the historic funding to fight PFAS included in the FY21 Defense Appropriations bill. Nearly all of the members’ requests were included in the defense appropriations bill that will be voted on on the House floor this week, together representing historic investment in addressing harmful PFAS chemicals.
“Even with everything that’s going on with COVID, we’ve got to keep our foot on the gas when it comes to addressing PFAS contamination, and the security threat it poses to families across our state,” Slotkin said. “This week, we’re continuing to build on the progress we have made in this and last year’s defense bills to hold the Pentagon accountable for more than simply studying PFAS, and putting real money behind the cleanup and remediation efforts Michiganders are crying out for.”
In the defense appropriations bill, Slotkin fought for and secured:
• Increased funding to clean up PFAS contamination at active military installations, expand studies of defense communities affected by PFAS, and phase out PFAS-based firefighting foams. This will provide DoD critically-needed financial resources to clean up PFAS pollution, including at National Guard facilities.
• Increased funding to develop a PFAS-free firefighting agent. In the FY20 NDAA, Slotkin secured a requirement that the DoD phase out the military’s use of AFFF, the PFAS-laden firefighting foam responsible for widespread contamination in Michigan and across the country, by 2024. DoD will need significant resources to ensure that a fluorine-free firefighting agent, and associated hardware, is developed and available by that deadline.
• Increased funding for safe PFAS disposal techniques. The members urged the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to make additional funding available to develop responsible AFFF disposal techniques that do not further contaminate or harm communities.
• Reporting on Defense Department efforts to test the blood of military firefighters and the costs of cleanup at active military installations.
• Funding to continue a nationwide PFAS health study.
• Increased funding to dedicate more manpower at the Pentagon to the investigation and cleanup of PFAS contamination. Given the magnitude of the challenge PFAS contamination poses in communities across the country, greater funding is needed within the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment. This funding could support an online portal where service members can see if they were exposed to PFAS in drinking water while stationed at a particular base, and expand investigations on and around DoD installations, including of private household wells, groundwater or surface water.
Slotkin advocated for this funding in April after data released from the Pentagon showed 678 DoD and National Guard installations confirmed or suspected to be contaminated with PFAS – significantly more than had been previously reported by Pentagon officials.
“Our service-members, their families and defense communities are on the front lines of PFAS contamination,” Slotkin wrote. “As you work on the Fiscal Year 2021 Department of Defense (DoD) Appropriations Act, we urge the Subcommittee to establish a special PFAS initiative across defense accounts so that the Pentagon can more swiftly tackle the urgent public health threats posed by the PFAS contamination crisis.”
The letter was supported by the Environmental Working Group, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Resources Defense Council, Healthy Families, the Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Health.
The FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed the House last week with several PFAS provisions Slotkin fought to include in the bill, including one that would apply Michigan’s new, strict standard on PFAS contamination to Pentagon PFAS cleanup. The FY21 NDAA included six provisions Slotkin authored to fight PFAS contamination, including her PFAS Monitoring Act, which amends the Safe Drinking Water Act to require testing for at least 30 PFAS substances in drinking water for small towns and municipalities, so that all communities know what is in their drinking water.