Washington — The U.S. Senate passed its annual defense policy bill today with a host of provisions to address widespread drinking water contamination from toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). One key provision would phase out the military’s use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams — a major source of pollution — by 2023. The bill passed with broad bipartisan support by a vote of 86-8.
“The Senate took a major step forward today in protecting our drinking water from toxic PFAS contamination,” said Bart Johnsen-Harris, clean water advocate for Environment America. “By incorporating our request to adopt a 3-year timeline for phasing out military use of PFAS, the Senate bill prevents further contamination quickly — which is what communities and service members deserve.”
The Pentagon has identified at least 401 military installations with known or suspected releases of PFAS, contributing to drinking water contamination for an estimated 110 million Americans. Cleanup at these sites would cost a minimum of $2 billion, a total that could easily rise if pollution continues.
“Phasing out these toxic forever chemicals is a critical first step toward protecting communities from pollution,” said Shaina Kasper, water program director for Toxics Action Center. “While many communities’ drinking water is already contaminated from past use of PFAS firefighting foam, this commitment turns off the tap to future contamination.”
The House is considering its own defense bill, which similarly includes a provision for the Pentagon to phase out its use of PFAS. The current House version would not complete that phaseout until 2029, with loopholes that could further extend the phase-out timeline.