Hearings - Statement
 
Statement of Frank R. Lautenberg
Hearing: Full Committee hearing entitled, “Oversight Hearing on Cleanup Efforts at Federal Facilities.”
Thursday, September 18, 2008

Madame Chairman, I want to thank you for calling this hearing but frankly, I am disappointed that it is necessary.

The EPA issued an order to the Pentagon: clean up the Superfund sites where the Defense Department’s work had put people and the environment in jeopardy.

The EPA was forced to take this action after the Pentagon refused to reach an agreement between the agencies on a cleanup plan.

One of those Superfund sites, McGuire Air Force Base, is in New Jersey.

Instead of making an actual commitment to clean up the chemicals that are found throughout the base, the Defense Department has refused to do what the EPA ordered.

I am concerned about the risks that could pose for the employees and military service members at Fort McGuire and New Jersey’s nearby communities.

In fact, the EPA has found several pollutants which “present an imminent and substantial danger to the public health or welfare” at these sites.

At McGuire, for example, the ground and water have been found to contain pesticides, volatile compounds, petroleum and jet fuel.

TCE has also been found on the site. When TCE seeps into drinking water, it can cause cancer.

While the Pentagon claims that it will clean up the site, but on its own timeline, we know the Pentagon is not doing enough. Even the EPA was quick to realize the Pentagon’s “voluntary cleanup” was simply a delay tactic.

And we know these are not new problems that require more study and more discussion. The Pentagon has known about these problems for more than 20 years—and these sites have been listed as Superfund sites for almost 10 years.

As soon as news broke of the Pentagon’s defiance, Senators Menendez, Mikulski, Cardin and Nelson and I demanded answers from DOD— but we haven’t received adequate answers to our questions.

We are also working with the GAO to investigate the Pentagon’s lack of action.

But what concerns me more is the Pentagon’s mentality that it should be above the laws that protect the health and well being of Americans.

It is not right to put the communities that surround these military bases at risk by ignoring long-standing environmental laws.

The Pentagon needs to answer for its actions.

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