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Kildee Leads Michigan Congressional Delegation in Urging Action to Fund PFC/PFAS Health Study

February 23, 2018
Press Release

Lawmakers Ask for Resources to Help Address Harmful Chemicals Affecting Water Quality in Oscoda, Other Communities Across Michigan

Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) this week led a bipartisan letter, along with 10 Republicans and Democrats in the Michigan congressional delegation, asking Congress to support funding to address harmful chemicals that are linked to cancer and other health problems.

The letter, addressed to the House Appropriations Committee, seeks full funding for a health study on the human health impacts of exposure to perflourinated chemicals (PFCs) and Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) to servicemembers and their families. The group also asked the committee to allow for the Department of Defense (DOD) to use funding to study human exposure to PFAS at military installations.

In July 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bipartisan amendments championed by Congressman Kildee that authorized the DOD to conduct this study. The amendments also required the DOD to submit a report to Congress on the status of developing an alternative to PFAS.

In the U.S. Senate, Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters also sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting full funding for the health study and the modification needed to allow the DOD to study human health exposure.

“Ensuring clean drinking water for Michiganders and taking care of veterans exposed to harmful chemicals like PFAS must be a priority for Congress and the Department of Defense,” Congressman Kildee. “Conducting a health study on the impacts of human exposure to PFAS will help us to better identify and take care of veterans and residents exposed to them. I will continue to work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to address contamination issues around military bases like Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda and other military installations around the country.”

Firefighting foam used at former Wurtsmith Air Force Base and other military installations nationwide contain some types of PFAS that are causing health issues for veterans and local residents exposed to them. In 2013, high levels of these chemicals were discovered in fish in the Au Sable River close to Wurtsmith and then subsequently in groundwater wells near the base. The concentrations are above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) health advisory level, leaving many residents at risk to harm from these chemicals in their drinking water.

Years after high levels of PFAS were discovered near Wurtsmith, the DOD is still not acting with enough urgency to complete testing around military bases and 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 PFAS.

In 2013, a study was completed on people who were exposed to PFOA, a type of PFAS, outside of a factory in West Virginia. The study found that this PFAS exposure is linked to health issues such as high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Since learning of PFAS 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 PFAS’ impact on human health. Congressman Kildee continues to work closely with Oscoda Township, and federal, state and local agencies to prevent the further exposure to PFAS and provide residents with clean drinking water.

Below is the full text of the letter to the House Appropriations Committee, signed by the following members: Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), Congressman Sandy Levin (MI-09), Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Congressman Fred Upton (MI-06), Congressman Tim Walberg (MI-07), Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-02), Congressman Mike Bishop (MI-08), Congressman Dave Trott (MI-11), Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01), Congressman Paul Mitchell (MI-10).

Dear Chairman Frelinghuysen, Chairwoman Granger, Ranking Member Lowey and Ranking Member Visclosky:

As you negotiate the full Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Defense Appropriations bill, we request your support for both funding and programmatic language to help address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Exposure to these emerging contaminants has been linked to cancer as well as thyroid, kidney, liver, heart and reproductive problems.

In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established new lifetime health advisories for two types of PFAS—Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has identified hundreds of active and former military installations with known or suspected release of PFOA/PFOS that require investigation and remediation. In Michigan, unsafe levels of these chemicals have been discovered in and around Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Sawyer Air Force Base, the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Camp Grayling, and the Escanaba Defense Fuel Supply Point.

Section 316(a) of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (P.L. No: 115-91) authorizes $7 million for a study led by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), with support from the EPA and DOD, on the health effects and cumulative impact of PFAS contamination in drinking water, groundwater, and other pathways. On July 26, 2017, during floor consideration of H.R. 3219, the Make America Secure Appropriations Act, 2018, an amendment to appropriate the funding for this study passed en bloc by voice vote. Therefore, we urge that no less than $7 million be included for the study in the FY2018 defense spending bill.

In addition, Section 316(b) of the NDAA directs the CDC and the ATSDR to conduct an exposure assessment of at least eight military installations that are known to have PFAS contamination in drinking and groundwater sources. The data collected as part of the assessment will help inform the national health study authorized in Section 316(a). However, it is our understanding that a technical change is needed to the NDAA to enable the DOD to use any appropriated funds to carry out the reviews authorized in both 316(a) and 316(b). To that end, we ask that the following language be included in the FY2018 defense spending bill:

SEC. 80XX. Section 316(a)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (Public Law 115-91) is amended by striking “$7,000,000 shall be available to carry out the study under this subsection” and inserting “the Secretary of Defense may, without regard to section 2215 of title 10, United States Code, transfer not more than $7,000,000 to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to carry out the study and assessment under this section.”

Thank you for your consideration of this request. We hope that the requisite funding and programmatic language to help the DOD address PFAS contamination in Michigan and nationwide are included in the full FY2018 Defense Appropriations bill.

Sincerely,

Dan Kildee

Congressman Sandy Levin

Debbie Dingell

Brenda Lawrence

Fred Upton

Tim Walberg

Bill Huizenga

Mike Bishop

Dave Trott

Jack Bergman

Paul Mitchell