WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — A report from the Inspector General’s office found the Defense Department waited years before notifying military members they were exposed to dangerous PFAS chemicals at military facilities.
Officials with the office said the DOD took some steps to limit exposure to one specific toxic chemical in firefighting foam, but has not taken steps to identify or mitigate other types of PFAS at military facilities.
In 2011, the DOD was told PFAS was dangerous to military members but took no action until 2016.
Sen. Alex Padilla, a California Democrat, said memos show the DOD knew firefighting foam was toxic “as early as 2008.”
DOD officials expected the industry to fix the problem itself. Instead, one toxic chemical was swapped for another.
“We followed the lead of industry and our regulatory agencies,” said Richard Kidd from the Defense Department.
Padilla asked if the department “deferred to industry the health and safety of service members and their families and surrounding communities.”
“That was the accepted practice at the time,” Kidd replied.
Defense officials said the dangers related to PFAS were publicly known for decades. But Michigan Sen. Gary Peters said DOD just wasn’t “proactive in using any of that research.”
Lawmakers from both parties say the DOD still isn’t acting urgently or doing enough to clean up and test contamination at some 700 military sites.
“It will take years to define the scope of our clean up and decades before it is complete,” Kidd said.
Senators said the Defense Department also is not being proactive about notifying those who were exposed to contaminants at work or in the drinking water and is failing to follow its own policies to track, trend and analyze blood tests of those impacted.
“That could be used for risk management including assessing long term health effects related to PFAS,” said Michael J. Roark with the Inspector General’s office.
The DOD is fighting state clean water regulations, lawmakers said. Those are many times tougher than federal regulations. And, they said, DOD failed to communicated with neighboring communities about the contaminated water and test results.