N.M. lawmakers target PFAS contamination

By:  Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder

A toxic class of chemicals continues to get attention on Capitol Hill this week, with lawmakers from New Mexico introducing bicameral bills to help contaminated communities.

Democratic Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich along with Rep. Ben Ray Luján introduced companion legislation to authorize the Defense Department to use funds to provide clean water for agricultural purposes to areas affected by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

"Families, business owners, farmers, servicemembers and communities who have suffered from exposure to these hazardous chemicals in New Mexico deserve immediate relief, and the Air Force must take precautionary steps to prevent any further dangers to public health," Udall said in a statement.

In New Mexico, a dairy farmer recently spoke out about PFAS contamination, saying that all 4,000 of his cows would need to be killed after they were exposed to the chemicals through a nearby Air Force base, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

The chemicals are an ingredient in firefighting foam that was used during training exercises on military bases. They have been linked to several health problems, including cancer and thyroid disease.

"The Department of Defense says they lack authority to fully address this dire situation, so our bill ensures they are able to provide clean water and assistance, including to agricultural operations that face contamination," Udall said.

S. 675 and H.R. 1567 would authorize the Air Force secretary to obtain property to extend any base that has shown signs of contamination. They would also require the DOD secretary to submit a remediation plan to Congress to clean up two of the best-known PFAS — PFOA and PFOS — on or near military bases.