Congressional Delegation Reacts to PFAS Contamination Levels Found Around Dover AFB

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tom Carper, top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee and Chris Coons, along with Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (all D-Del.), released the following statements reacting to the news of elevated levels of PFAS contamination measured in the drinking water supplies of communities surrounding Dover Air Force Base.

“The Air Force is engaging directly with members of the surrounding communities to make them aware of the contamination levels found in their drinking water supplies,” said Senator Carper.“But as Dover residents know all too well, this is far from a new threat – and the Air Force’s actions this weekend represent only a tiny fraction of their long-term responsibilities.  Disappointingly, the Department of Defense has not been confronting this issue with the urgency it deserves.  DOD continues to advocate for weaker groundwater cleanup standards and downplay the extent of their cleanup liabilities. To make matters worse, we have an EPA that continues to drag its heels when it comes to PFAS. A report released last week lists PFAS contamination at 219 military installations, and this EPA has done nothing to address these egregious contaminations. Last month, I was proud that the Senate passed in our defense authorization bill several provisions I helped lead on, such as a measure that would set a national drinking water standard for two prevalent PFAS chemicals and a bill that would help EPA more effectively keep the public aware of PFAS emissions sources. But there’s so much more we need to do. Congress has another opportunity before us to take meaningful action by passing the bipartisan PFAS Action Act I introduced in March.  By designating PFAS as hazardous substances under EPA’s Superfund law, this bill will jumpstart federal cleanup efforts and hold the DOD accountable. I was happy to see the language of that bill pass last week by voice vote in the House of Representatives, and I will continue working hard to make sure it crosses the finish line in the Senate and gets to the president’s desk.”

“PFAS contamination is a serious issue facing communities around the country, and it’s critical that we take steps to ensure that everyone has access to safe drinking water,” said Senator Coons.“I appreciate the immediate action that Dover Air Force Base leadership has taken in response to this news, and look forward to seeing the Department of Defense’s long-term plans to mitigate the risks of PFAS contamination around their installations. I was also pleased to support passage of the Senate’s defense authorization bill for this year, which includes provisions to phase out the use of PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam procured by the Department of Defense.” 

“The PFAS contamination around the Dover Air Force Base highlights the growing problem of PFAS contamination across the country and underscores the need for Congressional action. It’s why I am an original cosponsor of important legislation dealing with the impact of PFAS contamination, such as the PFAS Monitoring Act of 2019 & the LIFT America Act. The ongoing issues that the military has faced with PFAS firefighting foam is also why I supported numerous amendments to the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act that help directly address the problem,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester, a member of the House Energy & Commerce Environment & Climate Change Subcommittee. “My first priority is working with the relevant stakeholders to ensure that the impacted residents have the access to clean and safe drinking water that they need, but it’s also incumbent on Congress to push the Department of Defense to develop a comprehensive strategy to clean up contaminated sites as quickly as possible. They simply have not done enough to address widespread PFAS contamination and our communities are suffering because of it. My team will continue to work with the Dover Air Force Base to ensure that this problem is dealt with appropriately.”

Additional recent background on PFAS contamination and the Department of Defense:

  • In March, Senator Carper introduced the bipartisan PFAS Action Act of 2019, which would designate PFAS as hazardous substances under EPA’s Superfund law, which would jumpstart cleanups and hold polluters accountable – including the Department of Defense. This bill’s language passed last week by voice vote in the House of Representatives, as an amendment to the defense authorization bill.  
  • In June, Senator Carper reacted to news that USAF was diverting resources from other environmental projects to remediate PFAS contamination, saying “Congress needs to ensure that the Department of Defense has the resources needed to fully address its millions of dollars—perhaps billions of dollars—in liabilities related to the DOD-related PFAS contamination in our communities.”
  • After the EPA proposed weaker PFAS groundwater cleanup thresholds on April 25, Senator Carper said that the proposal “fails to adequately protect public health from this emerging crisis.” This proposal was released after Senator Carper urged EPA to reject pressure from the Department of Defense to increase the concentration level at which DOD has to clean up PFAS contamination.
  • In March, Senators Carper and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee,  wrote to the Department of Defense to request documents related to the interagency review process of PFAS groundwater cleanup guidelines.