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Rubio, Colleagues Seek Answers About “Forever Chemicals” at Florida Bases

Jan 17, 2024 | Press Releases

Exposure to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is linked to cancer and other diseases. Unfortunately, these substances may have contaminated the water of several Florida military bases, putting service members and their families at risk.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and colleagues sent a letter to U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Lloyd Austin, asking about PFAS remediation efforts at Florida’s military installations and clarifying the extent of the health impacts of PFAS exposure on service members and their families. 

  • “Our service members, and their families, deserve full information on the health risks of PFAS, as well as a commitment by the DoD to mitigate any harm that may be caused by PFAS exposure on military installations. As such, we request a full accounting of the progress for PFAS remediation efforts on each of Florida’s military installations.”

Joining Rubio was Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) and Representatives Kathy Castor (D-FL), John Rutherford (R-FL), Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Kat Cammack (R-FL), Scott Franklin (R-FL), Greg Steube (R-FL), Bill Posey (R-FL), Laurel Lee (R-FL), Cory Mills (R-FL) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

The full text of the letter is below. 

Dear Secretary Austin:

We write with regards to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)’s environmental restoration activities and cleanup plan associated with Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) contamination at military installations throughout the state of Florida. Our service members and their families deserve full information on the health risks of PFAS, as well as a commitment by the DoD to mitigate any harm that may be caused by PFAS exposure on military installations. As such, we request a full accounting of the progress for PFAS remediation efforts on each of Florida’s military installations.

We understand that DoD is in the process of PFAS remediation efforts at several military installations in Florida and across the country, and appreciate the efforts that DoD has taken to address this issue and communicate with our offices. However, we are concerned that the current cleanup timelines are not adequately urgent to redress the impacts that PFAS are having on our service members, their families, and the communities surrounding contaminated military installations. As such, we request more information regarding the criteria given for the current PFAS cleanup timeline, and how installations are prioritized for timely action to address PFAS contamination.

Service members and their families put their trust in the DoD to ensure their safety and wellbeing during their service to our country. As we continue to learn more about the life-altering effects of PFAS exposure and the far-reaching impacts of PFAS contamination, it is imperative that the public receives timely and adequate information from DoD on its efforts to mitigate PFAS contamination. 

Therefore, we request the answers to the following questions:

  1. What was the PFAS Cleanup Schedule for 2023 and when will it be published?
    1. Similarly, what is the PFAS Cleanup Schedule for 2024 and when will it be published?
    2. Is it possible to expedite the cleanup process outlined in the PFAS Cleanup Schedule?
      • If so, what exactly would DoD require from Congress in order to expedite the cleanup process?
  2. Does DoD have a process in place for tracking cancer rates amongst service members exposed to PFAS? Please provide a detailed accounting of all measures currently being taken to track the health impacts of PFAS on service members and their families, especially in regards to cancer rates, as DoD PFAS Task Force has a stated goal to better understand the health impacts of PFAS.
  3.  What steps does DoD take to assist service members and their families currently suffering from negative health impacts due to PFAS exposure on and around military installations?
  4. What is being done to inform service members of the potential harm they may experience due to PFAS exposure on and around military installations?
  5. How does DoD ensure that service members are made aware of their possible exposure to PFAS and the resources that are available to them should they be exposed? Please detail these resources.
  6. Is DoD on track to meet requirements outlined in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 to phase out AFFF at all military installations by October 1, 2024?
  7. What is DoD’s plan to assess the extent and progression of the PFAS plumes which have contaminated the groundwater in Florida?

In addition to answering the above questions, we request you provide a comprehensive update on the status of all ongoing efforts being undertaken at each DoD installation in Florida pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), including the expected timing of next milestones and the expected completion dates of investigations and remediation activities. 

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. 

Sincerely,