Cantwell Provision to Help Communities Struggling with Water Contamination near Military Bases Headed to President’s Desk

Provision provides funding for water clean-up efforts near Fairchild, Whidbey bases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United States Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), including a bipartisan provision lead by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that bolsters environmental restoration funding for both the Air Force and the Navy. The House passed the NDAA on Tuesday. The bill will now head to President Trump for signature into law.

Cantwell’s bipartisan provision dedicates nearly $62 million towards water remediation and environmental restoration in communities that have suffered groundwater contamination due to their proximity to military installations, such as Fairchild Air Force Base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and Naval Station Whidbey Island.

“Every family deserves access to clean drinking water. Passage of this provision will help clean up these chemicals and move us towards clean groundwater in these communities,” said Senator Cantwell.

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are chemicals found in firefighting foams that had been used at military installations and civilian airports. The chemicals have been detected in groundwater and drinking water wells near these entities. While the health effects of these chemicals are still being determined, studies have linked PFAS exposure to developmental damage, certain cancers, and immune system dysfunction.

Department of Defense has identified over 400 installations with a known or suspected release of PFAS that requires additional investigation. Three Washington state military facilities, Fairchild Air Force Base, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and Joint Base Lewis-McCord have detected elevated PFAS levels in groundwater wells used for drinking water. In the case of Joint Base Lewis-McCord, military officials have indicated the contamination was contained and did not spread off the base.