The Air Force says it’s spent almost $500 million on cleaning up a family of toxic “forever chemicals” that have polluted bases across the country. Senators pointed to mixed results in some communities.
The cost for clearing chemicals such as perfluorinated carboxylic acid, or PFAS, used in firefighting foam was cited by Air Force Secretary
“We have spent almost a half billion dollars in clean up to date and we’ll continue,” Barrett said. “I don’t know what that exact number for this year is but we will continue that cleanup effort and work with the communities for cleanup.”
Details of the public health problem are trickling out as top defense officials give budget testimony. The Pentagon also is preparing to report to Congress this month on work by its PFAS task force, formed by Defense Secretary
The Navy said last week it has a $60 million budget for PFAS cleanup in fiscal 2020 and 2021. It is also taking the lead on finding foam alternatives as the military faces a 2024 deadline to phase out all use of the firefighting materials that contain the chemical.
The Air Force no longer trains with the foam and is taking precautions to contain it when used, Barrett said.
“The Navy is working on doing experiments with other foam additives,” she said. “They have not yet it seems come upon a solution that meets the requirements to extinguish intense fires in contained areas.”
Both services need the ability to stop fires quickly around aircraft and aboard ships, but foam spills have threatened ground water, military personnel, and residents who live around current and former bases.
“In the case of Clovis, N.M., I’m sort of beyond frustrated by the utter lack of communication and any level of coordination at this point between Air Force leadership and local government elected officials for the city of Clovis,” Heinrich told Barrett during the hearing.