Sen. Peters convenes hearing on PFAS contamination near military sites

Gary Peters
Posted at 3:58 PM, Dec 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-09 15:58:13-05

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, held a hearing Thursday with two panels of witnesses to examine how servicemembers, their families and communities in Michigan - and across the country – have been affected by PFAS connected to military sites.

A Department of Defense inspector general report recently found that the department failed to adequately control PFAS contamination at military sites, resulting in preventable harm to service members, their families and the surrounding communities.

At Thursday’s hearing, Peters discussed the need to hold the Department of Defense accountable.

Watch the full hearing here:

“Exposure to these chemicals, whether through contact with firefighting foam, or contamination found in groundwater sources, presents serious health and environmental risks to first responders, servicemembers, their families and the communities surrounding these military sites,” Peters said during his opening statement. “According to this report, despite having information that PFAS exposure presented concerning health and environmental risks, the Department of Defense failed to warn servicemembers, their families and local communities about these potential risks for five years – unnecessarily putting them in harm’s way.”

Peters added he wants to see the department do more to expand their blood testing plan to better track long-term health consequences of PFAS exposure, as well as work more collaboratively with communities and state and local stakeholders who have suffered from PFAS contamination over the years.

The hearing’s first panel included federal government witnesses from the Department of Defense and the second consisted of state-level independent experts, including Tony Spaniola, co-chair of the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network.

They discussed how PFAS has caused harm to Michigan communities.

For example, PFAS has contaminated local water supplies as well as fish and wildlife because of firefighting activities at the now-decommissioned Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, as well as other sites across the state including Camp Grayling, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base and the Alpena Regional Airport.

More than 2 million Michiganders have been exposed to contamination in their drinking water and PFAS have been found in every Great Lake.

Federal government witnesses were questioned about the findings and recommendations in the inspector general report and why the Department of Defense didn’t alert people sooner.

The committee discussed what more lawmakers can do to ensure the federal government works with locals governments and organizations to combat these chemicals.

READ MORE: Dana Nessel calls for improved federal response against PFAS

READ MORE: ‘We're here to drive change’: Community group seeks lawmakers' help in tackling PFAS problem