Congress has reached a deal on the National Defense Authorization Act.
Congress has reached a deal on a spending bill that would require the military to stop using firefighting foam containing toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
The bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, has been the focus of intense deliberation for several months. The House-Senate committee determined the bill would be stripped of measures that would require the U.S. EPA to categorize PFAS chemicals as hazardous and set a nationwide safety standard for PFAS in drinking water, according to the Los Angeles Times.
A proposal requiring contaminated sites across the country to be cleaned up under the Superfund program had also been removed.
If the final bill is approved, the Pentagon will have to phase out the use of PFAS in firefighting foam by 2024, reported the Los Angeles Times. This measure is being taken to prevent more of these chemicals from contaminating the soil and water on military bases.
The military says it has already stopped using this foam in training, but continues to apply it in aircraft fires, according to the Los Angeles Times. The military would also be barred by 2021 from giving service members ready-to-eat meals packaged in containers treated with PFAS.
The bill will require that the chemicals be added to the federal Toxics Release Inventory. It will also expand monitoring for PFAS in tap water and groundwater, reported the Los Angeles Times.
“This is obviously a step forward,” said Andria Ventura, toxics program manager for Clean Water Action. “Now we need to start cleaning up the problem and figuring out what to do with the aftermath of the PFAS contamination. That’s where this initiative could have done better.”
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said he would introduce a separate bill next month that would incorporate the excluded measures, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The federal agency tasked with protecting public health from dangerous chemicals like PFAS has failed to do its job under this Administration, and the Trump Administration’s PFAS ‘action plan’ is all talk, no action,” said Hoyer in a statement this week. “That is why Congress must be a source of action.”