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Rep. Slotkin wants the Pentagon to act more quickly on PFAS foam

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin
U.S. Congress
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin

U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) is urging the Department of Defense to replace PFAS-foam at military bases faster.

She sent a letter to the head of Pentagon PFAS Task Force, Assistant Secretary Robert McMahon, earlier this week.

Slotkin wants the Department of Defense to act faster to find a replacement for a firefighting foam that contains PFAS.

“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,” Slotkin said in the letter.

“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,” she said in the letter.

The Department of Defense was not available to provide comment, but it has previously said it is working to find a fire retardant that doesn’t contain PFAS.

This firefighting foam is used at airbases around the country. But the PFAS chemicals used have raised health concerns in recent years.

Several Michigan communities are dealing with PFAS contaminated ground water, and one major source is firefighting foam being used at military bases.

More from Slotkin’s letter:

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.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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