Slotkin Pens Letter Pushing Defense Department For Answers and Action on PFAS Contamination

October 11, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08) pushed the Department of Defense to answer for its reticence to transition off of AFFF, the PFAS-laden fire fighting foam that is widely used by the U.S. military, in a letter this week to the head of the Pentagon PFAS Task Force, Assistant Secretary of Defense McMahon.

 

In the letter, Slotkin expressed her concern following a recent meeting with Assistant Secretary McMahon that DoD is not approaching its responsibility to address PFAS contamination with the urgency felt by Michigan communities, who continue to experience the highest number of PFAS-contaminated sites in the country.

 

Slotkin, a former Pentagon official and member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), has made mitigating PFAS contamination a priority, particularly as it relates to the Defense Department’s role in that contamination. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Slotkin helped secure provisions in the base text of the NDAA that hold the Department of Defense accountable for PFAS contamination cleanup originating from AFFF, the PFAS-laden firefighting foam found in and around active and former military bases. 

 

Letter attached and full text of letter below:

 

Assistant Secretary of Defense McMahon,

 

Thank you for taking the time to come to the Hill to speak with me and my team, on September 24, about the PFAS Task Force and how the Department of Defense (DoD) is addressing PFOS/PFOA contamination and remediation. I appreciate your focused attention on this urgent issue.

 

I am writing with some additional concerns, following our conversation. My constituents in Michigan feel strongly that we deserve clean water and that the Department of Defense has a responsibility to do the right thing by the communities near our bases and ranges. My most significant concern is the Administration’s reticence to commit to transitioning off aqueous film forming fire-fighting foam (AFFF) by 2025. I am also concerned about National Guard bases having sufficient federal resources for PFAS clean-up.

 

I have spoken with constituents who think one of the reasons the DoD is reticent to transition off AFFF is that DoD has a significant amount of AFFF in its stocks that has a 25-year shelf-life. I hope this is not a factor in the Department’s decision to cease using AFFF. I understand transitioning off AFFF may come at significant cost, but when weighed against the long-term impacts to the health, safety, and livelihoods of our communities, it is small in comparison.

 

I have also recently heard reports about the use of AFFF in military exercises, despite being told by a number of DoD officials that all services and components have ceased to use AFFF in training. I would appreciate your confirmation that indeed, all services and components, including DoD firefighters, have stopped using AFFF in training.

 

I appreciate the Department’s recent call for proposals for the development and demonstration of alternatives to AFFF. I understand, however, that our European partners have made significant progress in developing and deploying alternative fire-fighting foam. Can you provide additional detail on why the European alternative is unacceptable to the DoD? I urge the Department to accelerate its efforts to identify and transition to an alternative, in order to prevent future harm to our service members, DoD firefighters, and local communities.

 

Lastly, I would ask that you put a current or former DoD firefighter on the PFAS Task Force, if one is not currently serving on the task force already. Firefighters have a unique perspective on the risks and challenges associated with PFAS use within the military services. If you have no plans to do so, please advise why.

 

Thank you again for your time and attention to these additional questions. I appreciate your understanding that it is critical for the Department of Defense to take swift action to respond to this threat in Michigan and across the country. I look forward to working together to stem the flow, clean up, and prevent future PFAS contamination.

 

I look forward to your swift reply,

 

Sincerely,

 

Elissa Slotkin

Member of Congress