Slotkin Pushes Secretary of Defense to Commit to Forthcoming Michigan PFAS Standard

February 27, 2020
Press Release
Slotkin highlighted key provisions she passed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that hold the DoD accountable for PFAS contamination in Michigan.

WASHINGTON –– U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08) pushed Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in a House Armed Services Committee hearing today on the Pentagon’s responsibility to mitigate PFAS contamination in Michigan. In particular, Slotkin asked Esper to commit to follow a forthcoming statewide PFAS standard that Michigan is developing in the absence of a federal standard for how much of the toxic chemicals are unsafe. Michigan has the highest number of PFAS contamination sites of any state in the country.

Watch and download footage of Rep. Slotkin’s questioning here.

“The EPA has not done its job in setting a standard for what’s safe and what's not safe, so you can’t live up to [a] standard that doesn’t exist,” Slotkin said. “My question is this: based on DoD regulation, you all are required to live up to state environmental standards. The state of Michigan is currently reviewing setting up our own statewide PFAS standard. Once enacted, and officially promulgated, will you commit to living up to Michigan’s statewide standards?”

Esper committed to abiding by the law, noting he would follow up with a formal response. “I think if that's our regulation driven by law, we’d be required to,” Esper responded, adding, “Let me get back to you with a formal answer.”

“I think the people of Michigan would love a formal answer because we’re moving ahead -- it’s happening. It’s happening,” Slotkin said of the forthcoming Michigan PFAS standard. 

Remediating PFAS contamination continues to be a bipartisan issue in Michigan, and during the hearing, Slotkin’s calls for action on PFAS were joined by Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI), who also questioned the Secretary of Defense on the Defense Department’s role in PFAS contamination.

In her questioning, Slotkin also highlighted the six key PFAS provisions that she fought to include in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and that passed into law as part of the NDAA the President signed at the end of last year. Slotkin laid out these provisions last week during her “State of the District” event in East Lansing.

“I was really pleased that on a bipartisan basis in last year’s Pentagon budget, we passed the first six provisions into law dealing with PFAS that did anything more than just ‘study’ the problem, including laying down the marker that the Department has to transition off of PFAS firefighting foam no later than 2024,” Slotkin emphasized in today’s House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Slotkin passed six key provisions into law that mitigate PFAS contamination in Michigan: 

  • The EPA is now required to test for PFAS in municipal drinking water: Slotkin’s PFAS Monitoring Act amends the Safe Drinking Water Act to require testing for at least 30 PFAS substances in drinking water for small towns and municipalities, so that all communities know what is in their drinking water. Previously, the EPA did not require any testing for PFAS in drinking water. Slotkin introduced the PFAS Monitoring Act in May 2019, and it was incorporated into the NDAA and signed into law at the end of last year. This legislation also authorizes funds to make sure that small communities (below a population of 10,000) can afford to pay for that testing. 
  • The DoD must fully transition away from AFFF no later than 2024. AFFF is the PFAS-laden firefighting foam that is responsible for significant PFAS contamination in Michigan, particularly around current and former military bases.
  • The DoD must now come back with a plan for PFAS disposal and cleanup. The DoD, or an independent agency, must conduct a study and consolidate best practices for PFAS/PFOS clean-up/remediation.
  • The use of PFAS-laden firefighting foam is now banned in training/exercises, to prevent further contamination in our communities.
  • The National Guard now has access to additional environmental remediation funds specifically to clean up PFAS contamination. Important for our National Guard bases in Michigan, the ability for the National Guard to access funds was a specific request from base commanders at Selfridge Air Force base, which they will now be able to use. 
  • The DoD must test for PFAS exposure in its firefighters, as part of their annual medical exams, and include the records in their official files. This was a specific request from firefighters, who have been exposed to the toxic PFAS firefighting foam.