Advisers in the Trump administration are recommending the President veto any defense authorization bill that includes millions for water contaminated from PFOA and PFOS chemicals, much of which was earmarked for New Hampshire.
The Trump administration takes issue with using the EPA drinking-water health advisory to determine unhealthy levels of water used for agriculture purposes. The veto recommendation is included in a 10-page memo issued Tuesday by the Office of Management and Budget.
“The Administration strongly objects to this provision, which would provide authority to (Department of Defense) to treat water sources or provide replacement water for agricultural purposes where the water source is ‘contaminated’ with PFOA and PFOS from military activities,” the memo reads.
The measure would be costly and significantly impact the Defense Department’s mission, the administration said. The legislation singles out the military, but it is only one contributor to contamination, the administration said.
The Senate has already passed its version of the bill. It includes a provision by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, that bans the Pentagon from procuring suspect firefighting foam during 2022 and would prohibit its use in the military during 2023. The Trump Administration raised concerns with a later deadline of 2025.
“This is impacting so many Americans that it’s about time we act with a sense of urgency that this situation demands,” U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH, said during a telephone media briefing Thursday. “It’s not the time to play politics with the health and well being of Americans and New Hampshire residents.”
The House was expected to take up a Pappas-authored amendment Thursday that would require the EPA to set standards for PFOA and related chemicals.
The Pappas legislation also would ban the use of PFAS and related chemicals in all military bases by 2025 and establish a clearinghouse of information for service members.
Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group spoke alongside Pappas and said the “forever chemicals” do not break down in the environment and have been linked to cancer and harmful effects to human immune and reproductive systems.
New Hampshire already has received pledges of $35 million for mitigation efforts linked to use of PFAS and related chemicals at the former Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth.
The former Strategic Air Command facility once supported a base-related population of 10,000 as home to the 509th Bomb Wing. The $35 million set aside for Pease is more than half of the $66.6 million the Air Force has diverted to clean up per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances at its facilities, according to media reports.
Air Force efforts at Pease are focused on drinking water projects — a groundwater treatment plant that protects water supplies in Newington, a mitigation system to prevent further contamination of Portsmouth’s water and a filtration system for that city’s drinking water plant.
In a statement issued Thursday morning, the all-Democratic New Hampshire congressional delegation said Trump was undermining efforts by Congress to address PFAS contamination affecting service members and military facilities.
“We are adamant that more action is necessary to prevent further water contamination. This administration should be making every effort to work with Congress to make sure families near these facilities can trust their tap water,” the statement reads.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released an interactive map that shows four military sites connected to New Hampshire with PFAS contamination: the former Pease Air Force Base, the Defense Fuels Support Point in Newington, the Air Force Tracking Station in New Boston and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.
Faber, senior vice-president of government affairs with EWG, said the military has known about the contaminants within firefighting foam for decades and continues to place families at risk by using PFAS firefighting foam in training exercises.
The administration memo cites numerous other issues with the House version of the $733 billion defense authorization bill, including its price tag, which is $17 billion below what Trump requested.
Among other issues, the bill as-is would limit Trump’s ability to send troops to the southern border, prohibit use of Defense Department funds for construction of a border wall and would require advanced notice of military deployments.