Governors Urge Congress To Keep PFAS Provisions in Defense Bill

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For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, September 18, 2019

WASHINGTON – Governors from 15 states, including many facing mounting contamination of drinking water sources from toxic perfluorinated chemicals, or PFAS, are urging Congressional leaders to include provisions in a must-pass defense spending bill that would require the federal government to monitor and clean up the pollution.

The bipartisan group of governors sent a letter Wednesday to the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, urging them to keep a number of critical amendments in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, for fiscal year 2020 that will be sent to President Trump in the next few weeks.

As governors, we are evaluating responses appropriate for our states, including in some cases developing or setting drinking water standards for PFAS, and deploying state funds to test, investigate, and remediate PFAS contamination caused by government and industrial uses. Nevertheless, federal action is needed to address PFAS, including contamination in and around military bases. . . . The FY2020 NDAA presents an opportunity to take historic steps forward to address PFAS contamination that is harming our states, and we ask you to include the strongest PFAS-related provisions in the final bill.

“Regardless of party, governors understand better than anyone the challenges of protecting their citizens from PFAS contamination, whether it’s pollution of drinking water, food or air,” said EWG Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber. “We urge Congressional leaders to heed their calls to keep these vital provisions in the final bill that will help them safeguard the residents of all 50 states from the growing PFAS contamination crisis.”

The bipartisan group of governors is calling on Congress to adopt in the defense spending bill provisions that would:

  • Require the EPA to list PFAS chemicals as “hazardous substances” under the federal Superfund law within one year.
  • Require the EPA to revise the list of toxic pollutants under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act – commonly known as the Clean Water Act – to include PFAS and publish effluent and pretreatment standards.
  • Phase out the use of PFAS in aqueous film forming foam, or AFFF, as quickly as possible.

EWG’s research shows the chemicals have been detected in the drinking water of 19 million Americans in 49 states, and unreleased EPA data show that up to 110 million people may have PFAS-contaminated drinking water. The use of PFAS-based firefighting foam by the military is a leading source of contamination. Through the Freedom of Information Act, EWG has obtained Defense Department records documenting the PFAS pollution crisis at military installations across the country.

“PFAS does not respect party lines,” said Faber. “Republicans are just as likely as Democrats to be drinking contaminated water and eating contaminated food. That’s why members of both parties have worked together to include PFAS reform provisions in the NDAA. It’s of paramount importance for the protection of public health that these amendments remain in the final bill Congress sends to President Trump.”

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.