WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) announced that the final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes the New Mexico delegation’s bill, H.R. 1567 or the PFAS Damages Act, to provide relief to communities and businesses impacted by PFAS contamination in groundwater around Air Force bases in New Mexico and across the country, including dairy farms in New Mexico that have been upended by PFAS contamination from nearby Cannon Air Force Base. The full Congress is expected to vote on the NDAA before the end of the year.
“I’m proud that the New Mexico delegation secured this important measure to provide deserved relief to the families, business owners, farmers, servicemembers and communities who have suffered from exposure to PFAS chemicals in New Mexico. Federal agencies have dragged their feet for too long, but this bill will finally push them into action,” said Udall. “The Department of Defense says they lack authority to help farmers and ranchers with contaminated water, and our bill fixes that problem. The evidence is clear that these chemicals are toxic, and we must act proactively to ensure further damage does not spread through the food chain. Pentagon leadership owes New Mexicans and all Americans a plan to clean up contaminated sites surrounding our military bases and assist anyone whose water has been affected—so Congress can then allocate the necessary resources. We will continue working with the Air Force to keep New Mexico’s bases strong while doing right by New Mexicans and protecting our state’s precious water supplies.”
“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I fought hard to make sure that federal agencies quickly remedy contaminated sites like those at Cannon Air Force Base and prevent further risks to public health. This bill will allow the Department of Defense to respond to this issue with the urgency it deserves and mandates a plan of action to clean up contamination and make New Mexico families and businesses whole,” said Heinrich. “I am firmly committed to ensuring that our military has the tools and resources it needs to keep our nation safe. I also strongly believe that the federal government has a responsibility to clean up after itself and an obligation to protect the public health of military communities like Clovis.”
“I’ve met with the farmers in Curry County that have been impacted by PFAS contamination. These families and small businesses face serious, potentially long-term economic consequences and deserve immediate relief. I am pleased to see that our PFAS Damages Act provisions to address this continued contamination have been included in the National Defense Authorization Act,” said Luján.
“New Mexicans deserve clean water to raise their families, grow their businesses, and support agriculture, but harmful chemicals have taken a toll on our communities. I’ve seen what happens to the health of family and friends when toxic sites are not cleaned up, and it’s not something we should risk. Our delegation fought hard to make sure the Department of Defense cleans up contamination and will continue working to prevent future contamination by making sure the National Defense Authorization Act includes key provisions that help New Mexico families. These provisions include authorizing the Department of Defense to provide clean water to farmers dealing with PFAS contamination. But I’m not done yet, we must keep working for stronger safeguards for all New Mexicans,” said Haaland, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
“This year, I led the fight in the House during the NDAA process to get relief for the farms that have been so heavily impacted by the spread of PFAS. The amendment that I introduced to the NDAA requires the Air Force to provide water for our farmers and take responsibility for their part in the cleanup. I’m proud to work with the New Mexico delegation on these provisions and am committed to making sure we continue to support our agricultural industry and dairy farmers,” said Torres Small.
The measure would ensure that the Department of Defense (DOD) takes precautionary action to prevent human exposure, including through agricultural products, provide alternative water or water treatment for contaminated agricultural water, and acquire contiguous property that is contaminated. The measure would also mandate that the Department of Defense (DOD) create a plan of action to clean up contaminated sites nationwide and take all necessary steps to prevent further risks to public health.
There are hundreds of DOD sites around the country experiencing PFAS contamination. The U.S. Air Force confirmed that firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals (PFOA and PFOS) used around Cannon Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico contaminated nearby groundwater. The contamination has affected several agricultural wells near Cannon Air Force Base that feed New Mexican dairies. The contamination has caused major disruptions for the local dairy industry, and the extent of impacts near Holloman is still being determined.
The key provisions of this bill include:
— Ensures the Department of Defense has authority to provide relief to prevent further human exposure;
— Authorizes the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of each branch of the military to use funds to provide fresh water and/or treatment of contaminated water for agricultural purposes where water is contaminated by PFAS compounds, PFOA and PFOS, due to activities on a military installation.
— Authorizes the Secretary of the Air Force to acquire property to extend the contiguous geographic footprint of any Air Force base that has shown signs of contamination from PFOA and PFOS due to activities on the base;
— Mandates that the Secretary of Defense, submit to Congress a remediation plan for cleanup of water contaminated by PFOA and PFOS at and adjacent to military bases that includes a budgetary request so that Congress can begin the process of funding remediation plans.