On March 13, 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense (“DoD”) issued a progress report of its Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (“PFAS”) Task Force, which can be found here. DoD is encouraging a national solution to the issue. The Task Force has been exploring AFFF replacements as required by the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”), but to date no fluorine-free foam, including foam that does not contain PFAS, which meets the DoD strict safety standards has been identified. Under the NDAA, DoD is also required to implement annual PFAS blood testing of DoD firefighters by October 1, 2020 and DoD is actively planning for this effort. To better understand the potential impacts on human health associated with PFAS, DoD has provided $30 million to the ATSDR, and will provide an additional $10 million in FY 2020, to conduct a national, multi-site exposure assessment. The PEASE Study, the first assessment of the multi-site study, has begun signing up community members but has paused the study due to the COVID-19 virus. A map depicting the locations where ATSDR is conducting studies can be found here:
DoD is continuing its efforts to assess potential PFAS impacts at military installations and has increased the number of installations where it is performing assessments from 401 sites to 651 sites. A map depicting these sites can be found here. According to the Task Force’s report, at military installations where there was a drinking water exposure to PFOS or PFOA above the EPA’s lifetime Health Advisory Level (“HAL”) resulting from DoD activities, DoD has initiated short-term and long-term actions and as a result, DoD asserts, no one is drinking water above EPA’s HAL where DoD is the known source of PFOS and PFOA. In connection with its remedial efforts, DoD notes that although there are approximately 600 PFAS in commerce, currently only three, PFOS, PFOA and PFBS, have established toxicity values that DoD can use to determine whether cleanup is needed. It is unclear how this approach will be applied in states that have standards for other PFAS.
DoD is struggling with many of the same issues facing private parties conducting PFAS assessments such as the lack of analytical methods and cleanup levels for PFAS in media other than drinking water, such as soil, sediment, and surface water and the Task Force is evaluating whether it should develop guidance in these areas. The Task Force is also evaluating whether to develop guidance on disposal methods for materials such as spent filters containing PFAS; managing water discharges containing PFAS; and handling wastewater sludge containing PFAS. The Task Force is working with other federal agencies on these issues to ensure a consistent approach. DoD has established a website where it publishes developments related to PFAS. The website can be found here.