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Toxic chemicals found at California military installations, bill introduced to clean up

U.S. National Guard / Chazz Kibler / CC BY 2.0

(KION) Sen. Alex Padilla said he and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have introduced two bills to help clean up toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals found at military installations, including many in California.

As of May 2020, Padilla reports that 62 military facilities had a known or suspected PFAS release, including Fort Hunter Liggett and Camp Roberts. Some of the most contaminated in the state include:

  • Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake
  • Travis Air Force Base
  • Naval Air Station Alameda
  • Edwards Air Force Base
  • Vandenberg Space Force Base

During a news conference, officials said PFAS is a harmful chemical that can cause hormonal disorders, decrease fertility and cause cancer.

They are also referred to as "forever" or "legacy" chemicals because they are hard to break down. The Environmental Protection Agency writes that the chemicals do not break down and can accumulate over time

Padilla discussed the two pieces of legislation- the Clean Water for Military Families Act and the Filthy Fifty Act- which he said would direct the Department of Defense to identify and clean up PFAS at military installations. The bills would provide a $10 billion investment in those efforts.

According to Padilla's office, the military's use of a firefighting foam called aqueous film-forming foam led to the contamination around military sites, and the foam first came into use in the 1960s. It was used for emergencies, fire training exercises and equipment testing, according to Padilla's office, and it was used for decades.

At the current rate, Padilla said it would take decades to do the work necessary to clean up contaminated water at the bases, and the Department of Defense reportedly testified that it could take 30 years or more.

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.

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