ICYMI: Rosen Leads Efforts to Address Toxic PFAS Contamination at Nevada Military Bases

WASHINGTON, DC – A new story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal details how U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is leading efforts to address the growing concern of perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination at Nevada military installations and pushing for more transparency and cleanup action from the federal government. The cancer-causing chemical has been found at hundreds of military bases across the country, including Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases in Nevada. Rosen’s bipartisan legislation to address PFAS on military bases was signed into law last year as part of the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act.

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Key Points: 

  • High levels of contamination in Nevada were found at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs and particularly at Nellis Air Force Base, which landed on a Superfund clean-up list under the Environmental Protection Agency. The groundwater contamination is at unsafe levels and could spread.
  • “This is an area of concern that we need to address,” said Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
  • Rosen joined senators from New Hampshire, Michigan and Delaware in asking Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a Jan. 20 letter to provide community leaders and groups more information and input in ongoing testing and removal of chemicals at local bases.
  • Testing, analysis and remediation are underway at Nellis and Creech, as well as at Hawthorne Army Depot and Fallon Naval Air Station, according to a Defense Department report.
  • “According to the Air Force, no PFAS has been found in drinking water so far, but they did find PFAS contamination in groundwater at levels far above what is considered healthy,” Rosen said.
  • Last year, Rosen sponsored bicameral, bipartisan legislation to require the Department of Defense to publicly disclose testing results for contamination at installations nationwide. The language was included in the defense bill for fiscal year 2022, which began Oct. 1.
  • Rosen also joined Democratic Sens. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Gary Peters of Michigan and Chris Coons of Delaware in the Jan. 20 letter to Secretary Austin calling for more communication with local communities on testing and results.
  • More than $150 million was made available for Defense Department research on the contaminants in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden last year. Still, lawmakers want an accelerated timetable for removing the “forever chemicals,” labeled as such because they do not break down environmentally and will continually pose health risks.
  • An October 2021 report by the Pentagon showed that analysis and cleanup were taking place at Nellis, Creech, Hawthorne and Fallon as well as National Guard installations in Las Vegas and Reno. So far, drinking water at Nevada installations has not been compromised. 
  • Rosen, also a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, grilled Kidd specifically about the timetable for ongoing cleanup at Nevada installations, particularly at Nellis. In his response, Kidd told the senator the process would “take years to define the problem and decades to complete it.” The Pentagon’s response to the risk in Nevada has prompted Rosen to seek expedited action by the Department of Defense, and more input from community groups on removal or containment of contaminated groundwater and soils.