**The Announcement from DoD Comes Days After Then-Department of Defense Secretary Nominee Mark Esper Promised Senator Shaheen He’d Prioritize Combating PFAS Contamination & Establish a PFAS Task Force at the Department**
(Washington, DC)—U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement in response to the Department of Defense’s announcement that it will establish a per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) Task Force to combat the pervasive problem of PFAS contamination in water supplies throughout the nation, which has impacted communities in New Hampshire. During his Senate confirmation hearing, then-Department of Defense Secretary nominee Mark Esper committed to Senator Shaheen that he’d prioritize this issue and that he would establish a task force.
“I’m pleased to see Secretary Esper taking initial steps towards his commitment to me in his confirmation hearing to better address PFAS contamination,” said Shaheen. “It will be critical that this new panel compels substantial changes in the Department’s approach to combating PFAS contamination. Confronting this issue requires a multi-faceted approach: from ending exposure, to remediating contaminated sites, to accelerating research and development of fluorine-free firefighting foam and delivering urgently needed answers to affected families about the potential health implications related to their exposure. While we’ve made progress on this issue, much more work lies ahead. It’s imperative that the Department positively contributes to interagency efforts to stop contamination, and I look forward to working together so we can comprehensively address PFAS exposure and ensure Granite Staters can trust the safety of their drinking water.”
Senator Shaheen has expressed concern regarding reports that DoD pressed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into lowering proposed cleanup standards for groundwater pollution caused by PFAS. In March, Shaheen sent a letter to the DOD and EPA, requesting that the department and agency release communications they’ve had with the White House, and with each other, regarding the establishment of federal drinking water standards for PFAS and groundwater pollution guidelines related to these chemicals.
Senator Shaheen has spearheaded efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination, respond to the chemical exposure and remediate polluted sites. The Senate-passed defense bill includes a significant package of legislation, cosponsored by Shaheen, aimed at combating PFAS exposure. This PFAS package includes Shaheen’s bipartisan legislation with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act, which would expedite analysis of water contaminants like PFAS and provide support and resources to states dealing with the health challenges posed by these potentially harmful materials. Shaheen also successfully added her legislation with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to the defense bill that would confront occupational exposure to PFAS— the Protecting Military Firefighters from PFAS Act. The bipartisan bill would require the Department of Defense to include blood testing for PFAS as part of routine physicals for military firefighters. Shaheen and Murkowski previously called on federal health agencies to prioritize studies on the health effects of firefighters exposed to PFAS.
Additionally, Shaheen secured a provision that would ban the Department of Defense from procuring firefighting foam that contains PFAS after October 1, 2022 and would prohibit its use in the military after October 1, 2023. Shaheen also successfully authorized $10 million to continue the PFAS health impact study she established in the FY2018 NDAA. Shaheen has repeatedly secured the necessary authorization and funding to implement the study, which is set to begin this summer.