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Gillibrand says White House isn't enforcing legislation on toxic firefighting foam

In a 2017 file photo, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center performs drinking water sampling for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Michigan.

BREANNE HUMPHREYS/U.S. AIR FORCE

By ABRAHAM KENMORE | Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. | Published: December 5, 2018

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called on the Trump administration Tuesday to implement a law providing for airports to use firefighting foam that is free of toxic PFAS chemicals.

“Access to clean water is a fundamental right that every New Yorker should have, and we need to do everything we can to get PFAS out of our water supply,” Sen. Gillibrand said in a telephone news conference. “It’s not acceptable some communities in America are forced to drink or bathe in water contaminated by carcinogens like PFAS.”

PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are toxic, but until recently were required in airport firefighting foams. As a result, the chemicals have been found in groundwater near industrial sites, military bases and airports.

Sen. Gillibrand pushed for a new law allowing for other kinds of foam and phasing out PFAS over three years. President Donald J. Trump signed it two months ago, but Sen. Gillibrand contends nothing has been done.

“Months later, the Trump administration has done nothing to implement that law,” Sen. Gillibrand said. “I’m calling on the Trump administration to implement this legislation.”

Sen. Gillibrand said some airports in Washington state may have started using alternative foams, but she did not know of any in New York that have switched yet. She is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to notify airports of the legislation and get timelines from airports for moving away from using PFAS foam for training or firefighting.

The senator also highlighted $179 million included in the National Defense Authorization Act to clean up military sites.

“I don’t think any military installation has used non-PFA foam,” she said.

The state has also taken action this year to try to clean up sites contaminated previously by firefighting foam. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, under Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood, issued the first-ever state lawsuit against five major companies in June.

The suit alleges the use of firefighting foams made by the companies at military and civilian airports in Newburgh, New Windsor, Southampton, Plattsburgh and Rome resulted in contamination of soil, fish and water by PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) found in the product.

©2018 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)
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“Access to clean water is a fundamental right that every New Yorker should have, and we need to do everything we can to get PFAS out of our water supply,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., shown here at a hearing on Capitol Hill, June 19, 2018,
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