U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania wants the Department of Defense to do more to keep drinking water safe in communities with military bases after contamination at sites including three current and former facilities in Pennsylvania’s Bucks and Montgomery counties.
Language tucked into a federal spending bill would force Secretary of Defense James Mattis to submit a report to congressional defense committees detailing the bases where perflourinated compounds, more commonly known as PFOS and PFOAS, are used, as well as how those chemicals have affected those living in and around the bases.
The chemicals, most commonly found in military firefighter foam, have been linked in some studies to cancer and immune-system deficiencies after contaminating groundwater supplies.
“This is information that I think the federal government has to provide, and we’re happy we were able to get to this point. What isn’t done yet is having the federal government pay for a health study,” said Casey.
The senator’s language would also require Mattis to report plans for “prompt community notification of any such contamination.”
The Department of Defense does not comment on pending legislation.
In a statement, spokesman James Brindle said that, as of Dec. 31, the “DOD has identified 393 active and BRAC installations where there are one or more areas with a known or suspected release of PFOS or PFOA, and spent over $200 million to investigate and cut off exposure through drinking water.”
BRAC installations are military bases targeted to be closed or reassigned.
Brindle said the department is also “working in concert with regulatory agencies and communities and will share information in an open and transparent manner.”
The military is testing water at nearly 400 bases around the country, according to an Inquirer/Daily News analysis from April 2016.
Casey is particularly concerned about the water supplies for tens of thousands of residents who live near former and operating Pennsylvania bases in Warrington, Warminster and Horsham.
The House is expected to vote on the $1 trillion spending bill on Wednesday, followed by the Senate on Friday. If it passes, the measure will keep the government’s doors open through September.