U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., announced the inclusion of an additional $70 million in funding to the Department of Defense for environmental restoration in areas struggling with water contamination due to their proximity to military installations — such as Naval Station Whidbey Island — in the National Defense Authorization Act, according to a press release from her office.
“Clean drinking water is a must for every Washingtonian and for families throughout our country,” Cantwell said in the statement. “From Airway Heights to Coupeville and Whidbey Island, this funding will ensure we continue to clean up groundwater in communities affected by these chemicals.”
Cantwell also helped to secure an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act to authorize $10 million for the purposes of performing a health impact study on the effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, on groundwater.
Wells surrounding Outlying Field Coupeville and the Ault Field Base on North Whidbey were found to be contaminated at levels above the EPA’s lifetime advisory level. PFAS are present in a type of firefighting foam used to put out aircraft fires.
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, the press release states.
The funding will also help establish a health registry for people negatively impacted by the pollution, according to the press release
The Department of Defense has identified over 400 installations with a known or suspected release of PFAS that require additional investigation. Three Washington state military facilities – Fairchild Air Force Base, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and Joint Base Lewis-McChord – have detected elevated PFAS levels in groundwater wells used for drinking water.
In the case of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, military officials have indicated the contamination was contained and did not spread off the base.
According to the press release, Cantwell has consistently advocated for more resources to address PFAS groundwater contamination. She has pushed her colleagues and the administration to dedicate more resources to clean-up.
In November 2017, Cantwell secured $62 million in funding for water remediation and environmental restoration in impacted communities.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act last week. It next moves on to the Senate for a final vote, expected to take place this week.