Rosen, Rounds Introduce Bipartisan Bill that Would Require Public Disclosure of Highly Toxic Chemicals at Military Installations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) announced the introduction of their Military PFAS Testing Disclosure Act. This bipartisan legislation would require the Secretary of Defense to publicly disclose the results of any testing for perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – highly toxic chemicals – conducted on military installations. Earlier this year, Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

According to the Environmental Working Group, over 700 military installations across the United States have known or suspected discharges of PFAS contamination. Nearly 150 installations have confirmed contaminated ground or drinking water.

“PFAS are harmful chemicals frequently found on military bases and installations – including those in Nevada – and take an incredibly long time to break down, potentially putting the health and wellbeing of our servicemembers and nearby communities at risk,” said Senator Rosen. “Our servicemembers, our communities, and the American people deserve full transparency from the Department of Defense on whether these chemicals are present in the area and impacting people’s health. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Rounds that would require the Secretary of Defense to publicly disclose the results of any testing for these harmful, forever chemicals, and I want to thank Congresswoman Slotkin for her leadership on this issue in the House.”

“PFAS are highly toxic chemicals that are found in products used by the military to fight fires at air bases and manufacturing facilities,” said Senator  Rounds. “These chemicals can contaminate nearby ground and drinking water posing significant health risks to those who have been exposed. We owe it to the members of our Armed Forces and local communities to provide up-to-date, transparent information regarding these contaminations. By disclosing PFAS testing results and planned testing, we can help lessen the exposure in communities, keeping the general public and our men and women in uniform safe and healthy. I am glad to join Senator Rosen to create this new tool to combat PFAS.”

“EWG applauds Senator Rosen and Senator Rounds for making PFAS a priority,” said Scott Faber, Senior Vice President for the Environmental Working Group. “PFAS has been confirmed at hundreds of military installations and may be present at hundreds more. Defense communities should know right away whether these toxic forever chemicals may threaten their drinking water supplies. Military PFAS Testing Disclosure Act will give our defense communities the information they deserve.”

BACKGROUND: PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because once released into the environment, they do not break down and build up in our blood and organs. PFAS exposure is known to cause adverse effects on human health, including increased risks of cancer, reproductive and developmental issues, immune suppression, and endocrine system dysfunction.

The Department of Defense (DOD) is continuing to identify installations that may have used or potentially released PFAS, and DOD is conducting PFAS assessments at these installations. DOD is currently not required to inform the public water system or residents surrounding the installation that PFAS tests are underway, or disclose the results of the testing. Since PFAS exposure or ingestion can lead to adverse effects on reproductive and developmental health and increased risks of cancer, the public should know if they have been exposed to or are consuming PFAS-contaminated water.

This bipartisan legislation would require DOD to publicly disclose the results of any PFAS testing conducted on military installations. Additionally, prior to conducting the PFAS testing, DOD would be required to provide notice to the managers of the public water system serving the areas located immediately adjacent to the military installation.

In December 2020, Senator Rosen led a letter, joined by Senator Cortez Masto, to the Air Force requesting information related to the Air Force’s investigation of environmental impacts of PFAS exposure at and surrounding Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.