Energy & Environment

DOD sued for alleged improper incineration of ‘forever chemicals’

Greg Nash

Earthjustice sued the Department of Defense (DOD) on Thursday, arguing the military has been improperly incinerating so-called forever chemicals.

The class of chemicals, known as PFAS, is a central ingredient in the firefighting foam widely used by the military, but it’s caused alarm due to both its links to cancer and its persistence in the environment.

Earthjustice, which filed the suit on behalf of communities where PFAS has been incinerated, argues DOD is in violation of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which both required the military to phase out use of PFAS-laden firefighting foam and incinerate its stockpiles at temperatures high enough to break down the chemicals and avoid releasing them into the air.

“Incineration does not solve the Defense Department’s PFAS problems; it just pawns them off on already overburdened communities,” Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, a staff attorney with Earthjustice, said in a statement.

“PFAS chemicals are used in firefighting foam precisely because they don’t burn. Instead of destroying those chemicals, incinerating the foam releases PFAS and other toxins into the air.  DOD’s decision to authorize large-scale PFAS incineration without considering the health impacts is shortsighted and illegal,” he said.

DOD did not respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

The suit follows a January warning that Earthjustice was preparing to sue. 

DOD has also found that PFAS has contaminated the water supply in or near 425 military sites, and cleanup costs are expected to exceed $2 billion

Earlier this month, DOD’s Office of Inspector General agreed to review the military’s response to PFAS contamination, while a PFAS task force created by Defense Secretary Mark Esper on his first day in office was expected to release its findings in January.

Tags Department of Defense Earthjustice Firefighting foam forever chemicals Mark Esper PFAS

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