U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, today announced that the recently-passed Senate Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Defense Appropriations bill, which is expected to pass the House this week, includes critical funding to help communities affected by PFOA/PFOS contamination. Specifically, the bill allocates $179 million in federal funding to remediate, investigate, and prevent damages from PFOA/PFOS contamination that occurs in and around federal military bases. This funding is separate from the $20 million the Senators secured for reimbursement of treatment expenses incurred at Air National Guard bases, like Stewart and Gabreski Air National Guard bases. This funding would be vital to react quickly and not unduly burden local taxpayers should such contamination occur, and help prevent contamination by replacing potentially harmful firefighting foam. The Appropriations bill also allocates $10 million for a CDC public health study to enhance our knowledge of the harmful impacts of these chemicals.
“Starting in Hoosick Falls, and then in Stewart and Gabreski Air National Guard bases, PFOS toxic contamination has reared its ugly head, contaminated drinking water, and poisoned local residents. While we work to rectify those situations, we must be proactive on all our federal military operations because we know that the threat of PFOS contamination exists there; this legislation takes solid steps to guard against that potential contamination, funds clean-up efforts should they become necessary, replaces toxic PFOS-laden firefighting foam, and empowers the CDC to study the impacts of this very dangerous and carcinogenic chemical,” said Senator Schumer.
“PFOA, PFOS, and other related PFAS chemicals have poisoned drinking water all over our state. New Yorkers deserve to know that the federal government is taking the right steps to support the communities that have been exposed to this contamination and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Senator Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “I fought to include this funding in the Defense Appropriations bill to provide communities with the resources to understand, mitigate, and prevent the health consequences of these chemicals, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to help clean up New York’s water supply.”
Specifically, the bill provides the following:
- $134 million to clean up damages from PFOA/PFOS in areas surrounding federal military bases;
- $45 million to replace and dispose of firefighting foam that can yield PFOA/PFOS contamination and conduct contamination investigations on federal military bases; and
- $10 million in funding for the Centers for Disease Control to conduct a study and assess the health impacts of PFOA/PFOS in drinking water.
Additionally, the appropriations bill includes the senators’ amendment authorizing an additional $20 million for the Air National Guard (ANG) to make payments to reimburse New York State and local water authorities for their ongoing remediation efforts and cleanup of PFOA and PFOS contamination due to ANG related activities. The senators explained that over two years ago, it was revealed that the City of Newburgh’s drinking source, Washington Lake, near the Stewart Air National Guard Base in Orange County, had been dangerously contaminated by PFOA/PFOS, and that this federal funding will reimburse New York and enable them to do more to aid the people of Newburgh as they seek a more permanent source of clean drinking water. In Suffolk’s Gabreski ANG base PFOS related contamination also turned up and the Suffolk County Water Authority took on the response costs, which now will be eligible for reimbursement thanks to this legislation.
Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are two types of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of manufactured chemicals, and are persistent in the environment and resist degradation. These toxic chemicals are often used to manufacture products like fabric protectors, firefighting foam, and stain repellents. They are common primary ingredients in the firefighting foam that was used at Air National Guard bases for training and fire-suppression exercises, according to state regulators.
Exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to certain cancers and other serious adverse health effects. This year, after Schumer and Gillibrand’s push, a report concerning the health effects of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) was finally released to the public, after its release was seemingly delayed because of political considerations.