House passes PFAS actions in new defense bill

July 18, 2022
The House of Representatives’ NDAA for Fiscal Year 2023 includes several amendments aimed at limiting PFAS contamination, including publishing EPA’s water quality criteria and testing for PFAS in some schools’ drinking water.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023, which contains several amendments to combat contamination by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) through the Department of Defense (DoD) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The NDAA is a legislation that specifies the annual budget for the DoD and can include special provisions for specific industry sectors. This fiscal year’s NDAA still needs to pass the Senate and White House before it goes into effect.

The Environmental Working Group has applauded the bill’s passage, providing a summary of the bill’s current PFAS-related amendments:

  • Force the Environmental Protection Agency to quickly publish water quality criteria and set industrial discharge limits for certain industrial users of PFAS.
  • Require the Department of Defense to test and reduce PFAS in drinking water in schools operated by the DOD.
  • Require the DOD to report on PFAS destruction technologies other than incineration, create a guide to best practices, and extend a pause on PFAS incineration.
  • Require the DOD to report to Congress on progress toward replacing PFAS in firefighting foam, and report on other sources of PFAS contamination at military installations.
  • Clarify the scope of PFAS data reporting to the EPA.
  • Alert service members and their families about their exposure to PFAS and the health risks they face.
  • Track service member and veteran health problems caused by PFAS, and to notify veterans about health effects studies.

“EWG applauds these champions for offering these amendments and fighting to protect service members and military communities from toxic PFAS, holding the Pentagon accountable for cleaning up PFAS contamination, and speeding up regulations of industrial discharges of PFAS,” says Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs.

However, this proposed control of PFAS is also seeing criticism. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) expresses deep concern with the NDAA’s amendments and language.

“ACC supports development of water quality criteria and ELGs [effluent limitation guidelines] for substances and sectors that meet established criteria, but this is too broad (all PFAS) and circumvents established processes by mandating certain approaches and pre-determining certain regulatory outcomes,” reads an open letter from ACC to the House of Representatives. “EPA is already working on this as part of its PFAS Roadmap. Finally, this includes an overly broad definition of PFAS which is not scientifically accurate or appropriate.”

About the Author

Jeremy Wolfe

Jeremy Wolfe is a former Editor for WaterWorld magazine.

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