The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would need to determine whether to designate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), under bipartisan legislation introduced Monday by Michigan Reps. Fred Upton (R), Debbie Dingell (D), Tim Walberg (R) and Dan Kildee (D). Such a move would help communities and states respond to contamination in drinking water supplies stemming from past DOD activities. EPA would be able to order cleanup actions and recover costs the agency expended in cleanup actions, reported CQ. For base closure communities waiting to obtain land from the military services, a federal decision to list PFAS as hazardous substances under the Superfund law would force DOD to clean up property with elevated levels of the contaminants before handing it over.
In May, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a series of steps the agency would take to respond to national concern over the presence of PFAS in drinking water supplies. One of those steps, expected to occur this fall, was considering a decision to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances.
The legislation’s other primary element would require federal agencies to enter into cooperative agreements with states requiring them to conduct testing, monitoring, removal and remediation to address water contamination from PFAS resulting from operations at a federal facility. The bill would require DOD to submit a report to Congress explaining any delays in completing a cooperative agreement for cleanup between the department and a state or local municipality.
“We cannot underestimate the seriousness of PFAS contamination in Michigan and across the country. I have repeatedly called on the Department of Defense to act more quickly to clean up PFAS contamination at former Wurtsmith Air Force Base,” Rep. Kildee said in a joint press release.
Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caitlin Russell