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Defense bill moves forward despite PFAS concerns

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A new defense bill is headed to the Senate for a vote after House lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted in favor of the compromised bill.

But not everyone could get behind it. Some lawmakers voted no, arguing the bill didn’t do enough to combat PFAS, a dangerous chemical that’s contaminated the ground and drinking water of millions of Americans.

At least a handful of the more than 40 lawmakers who voted against last night’s defense bill cited weak PFAS protections.

The protections were added to this year’s bill because the cancerous chemical has been linked to firefighting foam used in military
exercises. But environmental advocates said it doesn’t go far enough.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-MI, said he voted against this year’s defense bill after he said Republicans scrapped strong PFAS regulations.

“(It’s) a really big lost opportunity,” he said. “I’m really disappointed.”

The newly passed defense bill forces the military to eventually stop using the PFAS-laced foam and also invests money to research the effects of the likely carcinogen.

But the drinking water standards Kildee wanted, along with designating PFAS a hazardous material, didn’t make it into the final bill.

“If we know that these chemicals are dangerous, we ought to be willing to set a standard that it shouldn’t be in drinking water,” Kildee said.

Emily Marpe, a mother from New York, said lawmakers dropped the ball. She, along with her entire family, was poisoned by PFAS water contamination.

“They gutted the most important parts,” she said.

Marpe said lawmakers can’t afford to take things slow.

“It’s like watching a horror film. People every day are still finding out PFAS are in their water,” she said.

But EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler insisted his agency is taking care of it.

“Wherever we find those chemicals in the water systems, we’re moving to make sure they’re getting cleaned up,” he said.

Wheeler said his agency is writing new rules to safeguard the nation’s drinking water.

Melanie Benesh with the Environmental Working Group said lawmakers can’t afford to wait on the EPA.

“We have no clue how long that will take,” she said.

Kildee said he will keep working to enact stricter reforms.

The compromised plan now heads to the Senate for a vote and then it’s off to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Trump has already vocalized his support for the bill.

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