Air Force diverted $66M to cover growing chemical cleanup costs

Air Force diverted $66M to cover growing chemical cleanup costs
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A new analysis from the Department of Defense shows the Air Force diverted more than $66 million to cover the cleanup costs of harmful “forever chemicals” that have leached into the water supply.

Those funds were originally intended to cover a number of other projects, including asbestos abatement, radiological cleanup, removing contaminated soil, repairing the protective covering for a landfill and several projects to monitor water for contaminants and pesticides.

The class of chemicals, commonly referred to as PFAS, has been widely used by the military in firefighting foam. Often called “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment, the military has now identified more than 400 sites contaminated with PFAS. Cleaning it up is expected to cost the military $2 billion.

The analysis was provided at the request of Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Overnight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge EPA will regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water MORE (D-Del.).

“Congress needs to ensure that the Department of Defense has the resources needed to fully address its millions of dollars — perhaps billions of dollars — in liabilities related to the DOD-related PFAS contamination in our communities. Otherwise, the DOD will just keep robbing Peter to pay Paul by putting important projects on standby and stretching budgets to clean up PFAS contamination,” he said in a release.

In DOD’s response, the agency said the Army and Navy “have been able to address these emerging requirements without diverting funds” not intended for PFAS cleanup.

Also Thursday, the House Armed Services Committee approved provisions in the defense policy bill that would force the agency to phase out the use of firefighting foams with PFAS. Several senators have also pushed for such a move.

Carper has also advocated for declaring PFAS a hazardous substance so that superfund money could be used to cover the costs of cleanup.

“We also need to understand that this problem is not just a money matter,” Carper wrote. “There are a number of ways that Congress must begin tackling this multifaceted problem.”