Senators renew call for Air Force to identify and notify affected individuals
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today applauded an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) order that requires the Air Force to act immediately to begin restoration of the Haven Well in Portsmouth and to prevent the further spread of contamination.
"We welcome today's order requiring the Air Force to immediately begin restoration of the Haven Well and to mitigate the potential for further contamination. We hope the Air Force will take this opportunity to dedicate the necessary resources and finish not only the investigation surrounding the well's contamination, but also the priorities outlined by the EPA in this order," they said in a joint statement.
Additionally, in a letter sent today to Air Force Secretary Deborah James, Shaheen and Ayotte renewed their request for the Air Force to take affirmative steps to identify and notify service members and civilians who may have been exposed to chemicals while stationed at Pease.
"We believe that the Air Force has a responsibility to take care of those who serve our country and that surely includes informing them when they may have been exposed to dangerous chemicals. We urge the Air Force to identify and notify these individuals by year's end," they said.
Last month, Shaheen and Ayotte worked together to include language in the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act Report that presses the Air Force to identify and notify those who may have been exposed to perflourochemicals (PFCs) that were found last year in the Haven Well. The provision requires the Air Force to report to Congress on its progress by September 30. If the notification is not complete by then, the language directs the Air Force to provide a plan to complete notification by the end of the year.
SHAHEEN-AYOTTE LETTER TO SECRETARY JAMES:
July 9, 2015
The Honorable Deborah L. James
Secretary of the Air Force
1670 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330-1670
Dear Secretary James:
We write to request your personal attention in the matter of ensuring that the Air Force identifies and notifies all who may have been exposed to chemicals from the Haven Well.
On June 1, 2015, we wrote to you, as well as the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, regarding the inadequate response to the presence of perflourochemicals (PFCs) in the Haven Well in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. As we pointed out in the letter, the presence of these chemicals in the well is likely due to the Air Force's use of fire-fighting foam at Pease. Exposure to these chemicals has been associated with certain types of cancer.
In the letter, we pointed out that the Air Force has not taken affirmative steps to identify and notify the service members and civilians who may have been exposed while stationed at Pease. We called on the Air Force to immediately identify and contact all those who are likely to have been exposed to these chemicals, including individuals stationed at Pease after the date the contamination was introduced into the water.
On June 30, 2015, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Energy Miranda Ballentine replied to our letter. In that response, the Air Force said that providing such notification would be "technically challenging." The Air Force also made clear that it is not currently undertaking and may not undertake an effort to identify and notify service members and Department of Defense civilians who were potentially exposed to these chemicals.
This response from the Air Force is particularly troubling because the report on the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act passed by Senate Armed Service Committee directs the Air Force to provide a plan to complete notification by the end of the year. More than a month after this committee published its clear direction, the Air Force response suggested it might not comply.
We believe that the Air Force has a responsibility to take care of those who serve our country and that surely includes informing them when they may have been exposed to dangerous chemicals.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.