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Bill would require military to share water contamination data

Air Force firefighters put out a simulated aircraft fire at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, on March 21, 2019.

JACOB B. WRIGHTSMAN/U.S. AIR FORCE

By WILL GARBE | Dayton Daily News, Ohio | Published: July 13, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — The military would need to share Wright-Patterson Air Force Base water contamination data with Dayton and other cities under the federal defense budget passed Friday by the U.S. House.

The defense secretary would be required to enter into agreements with cities neighboring military installations to share information about per– and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The substances, used in firefighting foam at Wright-Patt, leaked into the region's groundwater, causing contamination of parts of the aquifer from which Dayton draws its water.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, introduced the amendment concerning PFAS, which passed Thursday evening by a voice vote. Turner and most other Republicans then voted against the budget Friday.

Republicans generally opposed the budget because of a provision to limit President Donald Trump's ability to conduct military strikes against Iran. The Senate passed its version of the bill in June. The two chambers will meet in conference to iron-out differences before sending it to the president.

Turner said his amendment "will provide greater transparency to communities like mine to reduce PFAS in our water."

"Our base, like many others around the nation, continues to deal with the detection of PFAS in our groundwater," Turner said in a news release. "The most basic need of any community is access to safe, clean water."

PFAS also has been identified in groundwater near more than 126 U.S. military installations, Turner's office said.

The budget would also require the military to do away with PFAS-based firefighting foams by 2025. The Trump administration released a statement saying it "strongly objects to this provision" and that the defense department has concerns about whether it could meet the deadline.

Understanding about how PFAS can impact the human body has increased in recent years, prompting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue an advisory limit for the substances in drinking water.

Dayton's measurements of PFAS in drinking water in recent months has been no higher than 20 parts per trillion, below the EPA's 70 parts per trillion advisory.

Other states have proposed lower limits. New York has proposed enforceable standards for drinking water at 10 parts per trillion, according to a collection of state data from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that advocates for lower PFAS thresholds.

Dayton has sued PFAS manufacturers, alleging the chemicals are linked to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, liver damage low birth weight and high uric acid.

Turner has also created a panel to examine the water in Dayton, though the group hasn't met since its inception in April.

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