WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Congress works to tackle the widespread, complex issue of addressing PFAS contamination, yesterday, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), joined a bipartisan group of senators in announcing the introduction of the PFAS Accountability Act, a bill that would hold federal agencies accountable for addressing contamination for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at military bases across the country. It comes just days after the release of a new report showing that 19 million people in 43 states have been exposed to PFAS-contaminated water.
Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are the lead authors of the PFAS Accountability Act, and the bill is also cosponsored by Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) cosponsored the PFAS Accountability Act.
The PFAS Accountability Act sets clear deadlines and reporting requirements for cleaning up PFAS contamination at federal facilities across the country, including active and decommissioned military bases, and mandates greater transparency. It calls on federal facilities, including military and National Guard installations, to expedite cooperative agreements with states to address PFAS contamination. These agreements commit the federal government to take specific actions and enable states and local communities to be reimbursed for costs incurred to address PFAS contamination. If a cooperative agreement is not reached within a year after a state requests one, the bill requires a federal agency such as the Department of Defense to send a report to Congress explaining the reason for the delay and a projected timeline for completing the agreement. In addition, the bill enables the federal government to issue grants to states, local communities, and tribes to take actions to address drinking, ground, and surface waters contaminated by PFAS.
On April 25, 2019 Senator Carper raised concern regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) draft interim guidance for addressing groundwater contaminated with PFOA and PFOS. This draft guidance failed make clear that DOD has agreed to take action to clean up sites that are contaminated at levels between 70-380 ppt, a commitment DOD had previously objected to making. This guidance was released after Senator Carper on March 14, 2019 encouraged EPA to resist pressure from DOD to severely weaken groundwater cleanup standards for military sites.
Full text of the bill can be accessed here.
“I’ve heard directly from people whose day-to-day lives have been disrupted, first by being made aware of the potential for PFAS contamination in their drinking water, and then by federal agencies’ agonizingly slow response to address it,” said Senator Carper. “I’ve heard directly from local leaders whose communities are footing the bill to address PFAS contamination caused by a federal facility, yet they have no guarantee of reimbursement or recourse from the federal government. I’ve heard enough – it’s time for Congress to step in and ensure these Americans get the protections they need when contamination is suspected or detected in their community.”
“The last thing that Michigan families who were exposed to PFAS-contaminated water and soil need is finger pointing from our federal agencies,” said Senator Stabenow. “Our legislation will bring quicker relief for families by holding the Department of Defense and all federal agencies more accountable.”
“I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing the bipartisan PFAS Accountability Act to ensure federal agencies have the ability to constructively engage with states to protect our drinking water, soils, and wetlands,” said Senator Rubio. “As we learn new information about PFAS chemicals, it’s critical that federal agencies who may have inadvertently contributed to contamination issues partner with our local communities to limit potential exposure to PFAS compounds.”
“PFAS contamination continues to be a growing problem in North Carolina,” said Senator Tillis. “The PFAS Accountability Act will provide additional tools to our states to clean up and further protect affected communities. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this bipartisan legislation signed into law.”
“The potential health effects related to PFAS exposure are alarming, which underscores the urgent need to implement a coordinated federal and state response effort to clean up dangerous contamination from these materials as soon as possible,” said Senator Shaheen. “The PFAS Accountability Act will ensure accountability and transparency in protecting the health and safety of our drinking water. Remediation is a critical component to combating water contamination, which makes this bill so important in our strategy to end PFAS exposure.”
“Too many Michiganders have had their lives harmed by exposure to PFAS,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan legislation would help hold federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, more accountable for addressing contamination at federal facilities including military bases.”
“By holding federal agencies accountable for addressing PFAS contamination at military bases, this bipartisan bill is integral to our efforts to ensure that all Granite Staters and Americans have the clean, safe drinking water they need to lead productive lives,” Senator Hassan said.
“Many communities in Wisconsin are facing concerning levels of PFAS chemicals in their drinking water,” said Senator Baldwin. “When the federal government is the cause of this groundwater contamination, local officials shouldn’t be responsible for cleaning up the mess. This legislation will hold federal agencies accountable and allow local officials to continue their work protecting public health and ensuring Wisconsin has clean drinking water.”
“Every family deserves access to clean drinking water,” said Senator Cantwell. “This legislation will help federal agencies accelerate the cleanup of PFAS-contaminated water and protect the public from the health hazards associated with PFAS contamination.”
“I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this bipartisan bill that will make sure federal agencies are accountable for reporting and cleaning up PFAS. We need to ensure that every effort is taken to correct the situation when water supplies or land have been contaminated. This issue directly impacts West Virginia because of the PFAS clean-up efforts at the National Guard base in Martinsburg,” said Senator Manchin. “I will continue to work with my colleagues to make sure that our water supplies are protected because every West Virginian and American deserves access to clean drinking water.”