Congress compels military to phase out PFAS but misses key opportunity

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Bart Johnsen-Harris

Josh Chetwynd

Environment America

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate approved a bipartisan measure today compelling the Pentagon to stop using PFAS-containing firefighting foams by 2024. Both chambers of Congress have now approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the President is expected to sign into law before the end of the year.

Negotiators notably omitted provisions to address PFAS pollution under Superfund and the Clean Water Act, both of which passed unanimously in the House bill.

Bart Johnsen-Harris, Clean Water advocate for Environment America, issued the following statement:

“By ending the use of toxic PFAS on military bases, Congress is taking a significant step to prevent further episodes of drinking water contamination. Over the next several years, this law will curtail one of the biggest sources of PFAS pollution.

“A year or two ago, it was hard to imagine a full military phaseout of PFAS. But after months of sustained pressure — mobilizing environmental, veterans and community groups; working closely with congressional allies and celebrities alike; and submitting over 13,000 emails from our members — we are gratified that Congress took action.

“We greatly appreciate the bipartisan efforts and leadership of Sens. Tom Carper (DE) and Shelley Moore Capito (WV), and Reps. Dan Kildee (MI), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Debbie Dingell (MI) and Chris Pappas (NH). The staff on the Armed Services, Environment and Public Works, and Transportation and Infrastructure committees also deserve a lot of credit.

“But while this was a crucial step forward, more still needs to be done to fully address PFAS contamination next year. Congress failed to include crucial cleanup and prevention provisions in this final bill — a disappointing decision, especially with lives hanging in the balance. In the coming year, Congress needs to buckle down and make these commonsense protections the law of the land.”