U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, today announced that the U.S. Senate has passed the senators’ amendment to the FY 2019 Defense Appropriations bill, which authorizes $45 million for the Air Force and the National Guard to make payments to reimburse local communities for the cleanup of PFAS contamination due to Air Force- and National Guard-related activities.
“From the City of Newburgh to Suffolk County, communities all across New York State deserve to be repaid for the actions they took to respond to the contamination of their water supplies and private wells due to toxic PFOS contamination that originated on nearby airbases like Gabreski and Stewart. That is why it was vital to secure this amendment, which enables local communities and the state to be paid back for the millions they spent to respond to a mess not of their making,” said U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. “This federal funding is a key first step in bringing some relief to impacted communities, and we must now make sure that it remains in the final bill as we work our way through the conference committee. And while it is clear that more work needs to be done to fully address the scope of this contamination, New Yorkers can rest assured that I will continue to fight tirelessly in Washington until all New Yorkers have the clean water they need, and those responsible for this unacceptable contamination foot the bill.”
“New York communities have been using their own resources to clean up the PFAS chemicals that are poisoning their water supplies. No New Yorker should ever have to worry about whether their drinking water is going to make them sick, and it’s time for the federal government to do its part and reimburse communities like the City of Newburgh and Westhampton Beach for this expensive cleanup,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “The Department of Defense has a responsibility to clean up PFAS chemicals that have contaminated communities near their bases, I was proud to fight to get this funding included in the Defense Appropriations bill, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that this amendment is passed into law.”
The amendment, cosponsored by Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, allows the Air Force and the National Guard to use federal funds to make payments to reimburse local water authorities and states for expenses they have incurred in the treatment of PFAS in drinking water, which was a result of the Air Force or the National Guard’s activities. If signed into law, these payments will be made to local water authorities that have spent significant resources to try and provide safe drinking water for their communities.
Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manufactured chemicals, including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), that 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.