U.S. Secretary of Defense Launches PFAS Task Force

The new U.S. secretary of defense has launched a PFAS task force to begin his tenure leading the nation’s military systems.

Mark T. Esper, Ph.D., was sworn in on July 23 to oversee the department that manages national security, all branches of the military, and Department of Defense active and closed military installations.

Of those sites, at least 400 are known to be contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

“The Department is committed to taking a strong and proactive stance to address the effects arising out of any releases of these substances from all defense activities including the National Guard and Reserves,” Esper wrote in a memo written on his swearing-in day. “We must approach the problem in an aggressive and holistic way, ensuring a coordinated DoD-wide approach to the issue.”

The assistant secretary of defense for sustainment will chair the PFAS task force.

Esper will direct the task force to focus on these key issues:

  • Health aspects
  • Clean-up standards and performance
  • Finding/funding an effective substitute firefighting foam without PFAS
  • Science-supported standards for exposure and cleanup
  • Interagency coordination
  • Public/Congress perceptions of DoD’s effort.

The PFAS task force will report on its composition and charter within 30 days, and provide an update within 180 days, Esper wrote.

The military has spent more than $200 million on PFAS mitigation so far, according to national reports.

PFAS has been on NGWA’s radar for several years and will remain a priority issue for the foreseeable future. The Association has created an online Groundwater and PFAS resource center, which includes PFAS FAQs, top 10 facts about PFAS, and a homeowner checklist, among other items. NGWA is also the publisher of the guidance document, Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice.

NGWA will host PFAS in Groundwater Workshop: The Professional’s Challenge, December 5 in Las Vegas, Nevada.