Department of Defense Activities Related to PFASs


dod_sealBecause of the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF), many Department of Defense (DOD) sites have identified contamination from chemicals such as  perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).  The interest in these chemicals increased when EPA issued revised (and much lower) health advisories last year.   The Department of Defense has been working to address the known contamination and also conduct research necessary to identify and remediate other sites.   Earlier this month, the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) sponsored a webinar to review the research and development needs for managing these sites.
In the webinar, DOD explained that their first priority at any site is to cut off the exposure as quickly as possible.  That means providing bottled water when there is contamination of the water supply.   Once exposure has been limited, then DOD can follow the normal clean up process under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund.  This involves an initial assessment, prioritization, followed by an evaluation of feasible options, and finally a plan for remediation that is then carried out.  This is often a very lengthy process.  To assist them in their response, the DOD is conducting research on the fate and transport of these and related compounds, the biological impact, as well as treatment and remediation technology.   Some of the specific research activities were covered in the webinar.
Over $200 million has been spent already on these sites and final clean up costs could be $2 billion.  So far, the Department has been carrying out activities in response to these contamination incidents using existing funds borrowed from funding committed to other environmental projects.  Funding specifically authorized for addressing these contaminants will not be available until the FY19 budget, which has yet to be proposed or considered by Congress.
In near term  action in Congress, the National Defense Authorization Act currently under consideration in the Senate, includes a provision requiring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study the health impacts of the PFAS chemicals.