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Bipartisan Group of Members of Congress Urge President Trump to Speed Up Response to PFC Contamination

August 1, 2017
Press Release

Lawmakers Ask White House to Do More for Affected Residents in Oscoda, Other Communities Across the Country

WASHINGTON – Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) led a bipartisan letter today, along with 13 Republicans and Democrats in Congress, urging President Trump and his administration, including the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), to do more to address perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) contamination around military bases across the country.

“People living on or near current and former military installations across the country are being exposed to contamination in their drinking water from perfluorinated chemicals,” the lawmakers wrote. “Despite the danger PFCs present, the Department of Defense has been slow to provide safe drinking water to those areas with contaminated water. For more than a year, members of Congress have repeatedly requested that the Defense Department prioritize investigations of contamination on its sites and provide safe drinking water for these impacted areas. Yet there are still veterans, their families and surrounding communities exposed to PFC-contaminated drinking water that the Department of Defense has yet to address,” the lawmakers continued in their letter.

Firefighting foam used at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base and other military installations nationwide contains PFCs that are now causing health issues for veterans and local residents. In 2013, high levels of PFCs were discovered in fish in the Au Sable River close to Wurtsmith and then subsequently in groundwater wells near the base that are above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) health advisory level, leaving many residents at risk to harmful levels of PFCs in their drinking water. According to the lawmakers, years after high levels of PFCs were discovered near Wurtsmith, the DOD is still not acting with enough urgency to complete testing around military bases and to develop a long-term solution to mitigate the health effects of people already exposed. Additionally, the EPA has not yet finalized its health standard for PFCs.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PFCs pose potential risks such as kidney and liver damage. There is also concern about other health problems, including low birth weight, delayed puberty onset, elevated cholesterol levels and reduced immunologic responses to vaccinations.

Since learning of PFC contamination in drinking water around Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Congressman Kildee has repeatedly called on the Air Force to do more to help residents in the surrounding area get access to safe drinking water. Congressman Kildee also visited Oscoda multiple times to meet with local, state and air force officials to push for swift action. Congressman Kildee also met with Pat Breysse, then-Director of the CDC’s ATSDR to discuss PFCs’ impact on human health. Congressman Kildee continues to work closely with Oscoda Township, as well as federal, state and local agencies to prevent the further exposure to PFCs and provide residents with clean drinking water.

Below is the full text of the letter to the President, signed by the following members: Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL), Patrick Meehan (PA-07), Brendan F. Boyle (PA-13), Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Lee Zeldin NY-01), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), Paul Cook (CA-08), Donald McEachin (VA-04), John J. Faso NY-19), Salud Carbajal (CA-24) and Mark Takano (CA-41) is below:

Dear Mr. President:

We write to you in regards to chemical contamination on military bases across America that is hurting our veterans, their families and the communities where these bases are located.

People living on or near current and former military installations across the country are being exposed to contamination in their drinking water from perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). PFCs are found in the firefighting foam that historically was used in large quantities throughout military bases and has subsequently now leaked into the nearby groundwater.

In 2016, recognizing the magnitude of this issue, the Department of Defense (DoD) identified and began testing 664 sites with potential PFC contamination based on past activities.  PFC contamination is a nationwide concern, with a recent study released by Northeastern University demonstrating that PFCs have been identified in drinking water systems in 27 states and in the tap water supplies of 15 million people. 

PFCs are extremely persistent in the environment, break down very slowly and bioaccumulate in humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies have shown that PFCs can affect the developing fetus and child, including possible changes in growth, learning, and behavior; decrease fertility and interfere with the body’s natural hormones; increase cholesterol levels; affect the immune system; and increase cancer risk.

PFCs are a dangerous chemical, the full impact of which is still unknown, and it is critical that DoD take immediate action to prevent further exposure. Despite the danger PFCs present, DoD has been slow to provide safe drinking water to those areas with contaminated water. For more than a year, members of Congress have repeatedly requested that DoD prioritize investigations of contamination on its sites and provide safe drinking water for these impacted areas. Yet there are still veterans, their families and surrounding communities exposed to PFC-contaminated drinking water that the DoD has yet to address.

We ask that the Administration hasten the DoD’s response to the issue of PFC contamination. We have asked our service members to make critical sacrifices for our freedom and we must assure them that they, and their families, have access to safe drinking water.

We look forward to working with you on this issue of critical importance.

Sincerely,                                

Daniel T. Kildee

Lisa Blunt Rochester

Brendan F. Boyle

Carol Shea-Porter

Sean Patrick Maloney

Brian Fitzpatrick

Patrick Meehan

Elise Stefanik

Lee Zeldin

Paul Cook

A. Donald McEachin

Salud Carbajal

John J. Faso

Mark Takano

 

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