Skip to content

Senators inquire about DOD, EPA stance on PFAS

PORTSMOUTH -- U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan sent a letter to leaders of the Department of Defense and Environmental Protection Agency requesting they release communications they had with the White House about PFAS chemicals.

Shaheen and Hassan were among 16 senators who sent the letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler concerning the establishment of federal drinking water standards for PFAS chemicals. The letter follows media reports of DOD officials lobbying the White House to adopt substantially less protective guidelines for groundwater pollution caused by PFAS than those suggested by the EPA.

"If this reporting is accurate, the DOD's actions may endanger the health of service members and families who live and work near the 401 military installations where there are known or suspected releases of PFAS chemicals in the drinking water or groundwater," the senators stated. "We urge you to act in the best interests of impacted communities and support efforts to develop groundwater and drinking water standards that will protect the public from the health hazards associated with PFAS contamination."

Thousands of people working at Pease International Tradeport, and children who attended two day-care centers there, were exposed to PFAS chemicals from contaminated water in the city-owned Haven well until its closure in 2014. The city closed the polluted well after the Air Force detected high levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, which they believe came from firefighting foam used at the former air base.

The EPA in May 2016 set permanent health advisories for PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, at 70 parts per trillion. PFAS are man-made chemicals used in products worldwide since the 1950s. The Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry states PFAS chemicals are a suspected carcinogen, can harm childhood development, increase cholesterol levels, hurt the immune system and interfere with the human body's hormones.

Blood tests on people at the tradeport showed more than 1,500 people have elevated levels of PFAS in their blood from the contaminated drinking water.

The senators added in the letter that "given the significant public health concerns related to these chemicals, immediate action must be taken to reduce exposure to PFAS and address any potential negative health effects contamination from these materials may have on our communities."