Cantwell Secures Additional $62 Million to Help Communities Struggling with Water Contamination near Military Bases

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) secured a bipartisan provision to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that bolsters environmental restoration funding for both the Air Force and the Navy. The NDAA is expected to pass the Senate early next week.

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.

“People near these bases reacted with understandable alarm when these chemicals were discovered in their groundwater. Since then, I have been focused on finding solutions to the PFAS problem. This important funding is one such solution and will move us towards clean groundwater in communities close to the affected military facilities,” 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.

Cantwell’s provision was also co-sponsored by Senators Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) and Bob Casey (D-PA). Similar language is included in the House-passed version of the NDAA.