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‘Forever chemicals’ need to be addressed

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has sent a letter to Congressional leadership calling on Congressional committee leaders to protect service members, defense communities and the general public from PFAS — or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — contamination associated with defense installations when they finalize the National Defense Authorization Act.

Nessel urged the leaders to include protective provisions already passed by the House of Representatives in the final version of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

Nessel was joined by a coalition of 19 other attorneys general in the effort.

PFAS contamination in groundwater and surface water has been identified at dozens of sites in Michigan, including near military installations such as K.I. Sawyer, a former Air Force base. In Wisconsin, the Marinette and Peshtigo areas in Marinette County have dealt with PFAS contamination from firefighting foam at Tyco Fire Products’ training facility.

The situation bears watching. Exposure to PFAS has been shown to correlate with adverse health effects including developmental defects, kidney cancer, liver damage and impacts on the thyroid and immune system, Nessel said.

Nessel has filed lawsuits against manufacturers of PFAS and PFAS-containing products to hold those companies accountable for the injuries and damages from which they profited.

“I am fighting here in Michigan to get toxic PFAS out of our drinking water and our natural resources, and the other attorneys general who signed this comment letter are fighting the same battle in their own jurisdictions,” Nessel said in a statement.

PFAS chemicals are used in a variety of consumer products, including nonstick cookware; waterproofing treatments for fabrics, carpeting and upholstery; food packaging; and firefighting foam, according to the Nessel’s office.

She stressed that PFAS does not break down easily in the environment, which is why they are called “forever chemicals.”

Nessel said that when the U.S. House of Representatives finalized its version of the NDAA, it included the following protective provisions that the coalition calls on Congressional leadership to include in the final version:

— Require the Department of Defense to abide by state standards when removing or remediating PFAS when those state standards are more stringent than federal standards, and regardless of whether a cooperative agreement is in place;

— Provide additional funding and authorization for PFAS cleanup and research into development of safe PFAS disposal mechanisms and alternatives to PFAS-laden firefighting aqueous film-forming foam;

— Require the Department of Defense to provide PFAS blood testing for all interested service members;

— Limit what PFAS-containing products the Department of Defense can procure; and

— Require the Department of Defense to engage in meaningful stakeholder communication, including promptly publishing results of drinking, surface or groundwater PFAS testing.

As with many complicated scenarios, transparency is crucial. People want to know about measures being taken to remedy contamination.

A strong NDAA is an important step, and we hope Congress takes a strong stance on PFAS in the military budget.

— The Mining Journal, Marquette

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