02.23.18

Peters, Stabenow Urge Congress to Provide Funding for Critical Water Contamination Study

A growing number of Michigan communities are facing water contamination that has been linked to cancer and other health problems

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow today urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to provide funding for a critical study on the health impacts of exposure to chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). In Michigan, residents across the state are dealing with the aftermath of finding unsafe levels of these chemicals in their lakes and drinking water. PFAS have been linked to cancer as well as thyroid, kidney, liver, and reproductive problems. They have been discovered in the Belmont area and in and around Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Sawyer Air Force Base, the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Camp Grayling, and the Escanaba Defense Fuel Supply Point.

“Michigan families and our men and women in uniform who were unknowingly exposed to unsafe levels of dangerous chemicals deserve the best treatment we can give them,” said Senator Peters. “This study will help determine the full impact of this contamination on Michiganders’ health so that we can prevent further exposure and ensure that any affected family can get the treatment they need.”

“I’m deeply concerned that our families and service members have been exposed to contaminated water across Michigan, including in and around several military bases,” said Senator Stabenow. ”It is critical that we understand the health risks of this contamination so that people can be protected and health issues can be addressed for those who have been exposed.” 

Last summer, the Senate passed a measure in the National Defense Authorization Act championed by Stabenow and Peters that authorized the Department of Defense to conduct this study.  Congressman Dan Kildee and bipartisan members of the Michigan delegation in the House of Representatives also sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee calling for funding for this study. 

The full text of the letter may be found below and here

 

February 5, 2018

 

The Honorable Thad Cochran

Chairman, Committee on Appropriations

Chairman, Defense Appropriations Subcommittee

Room S-128, The Capitol

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Patrick Leahy

Vice Chairman

Senate Committee on Appropriations

Room S-128, The Capitol

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Dick Durbin

Ranking Member, Defense Appropriations Subcommittee

711 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Cochran, Vice Chairman Leahy, and Ranking Member Durbin:

As you negotiate the FY2018 Defense Appropriations bill, we write to ask for your support for funding and programmatic language to help address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).  Exposure to these emerging contaminants has been linked to cancer as well as thyroid, kidney, liver, and reproductive problems.

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established new lifetime health advisories for two types of PFAS -- Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).  The Department of Defense (DOD) has identified hundreds of active and former installations with known or suspected release of PFOS/PFOA that require investigation and remediation.  In Michigan, unsafe levels of these chemicals have been discovered in and around Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Sawyer Air Force Base, the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Camp Grayling, and the Escanaba Defense Fuel Supply Point.

Section 316(a) of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. No: 115-91) authorizes $7 million for a study led by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), with support from the Environmental Protection Agency and DOD, on the health effects and cumulative impact of PFAS contamination in drinking water, groundwater, and other pathways.  We urge that no less than $7 million be included for the study in the FY2018 defense spending bill.

In addition, Section 316(b) of the National Defense Authorization Act directs the CDC and the ATSDR to conduct an exposure assessment of at least eight military installations that are known to have PFAS contamination in drinking and groundwater sources.  The data collected as part of the assessment will help inform the national health study authorized in Section 316(a).  However, it is our understanding that a technical change is needed to the National Defense Authorization Act to enable the DOD to use any appropriated funds to carry out the reviews authorized in both 316(a) and 316(b).    To that end, we ask that the following language be included in the FY2018 defense spending bill:

SEC. 80XX.  Section 316(a)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (Public Law 115-91) is amended by striking “$7,000,000 shall be available to carry out the study under this subsection” and inserting “the Secretary of Defense may, without regard to section 2215 of title 10, United States Code, transfer not more than $7,000,000 to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to carry out the study and assessment under this section.” 

Thank you for considering these requests.   We hope that the requisite funding and programmatic language to help the Department of Defense address PFAS contamination in Michigan and nationwide are included in the FY2018 Defense Appropriations bill.