Slotkin invites new U.S. secretary of Defense to visit communities impacted by PFAS

    U.S. Rep.Elissa Slotkin | Andrew Roth

    U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) has invited newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to Michigan in order to “see and hear directly from people impacted by” the toxic chemicals known as PFAS.

    Mark Esper
    President Donald J. Trump watches as new Secretary of Defense Mark Esper delivers remarks Tuesday, July 23, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House. | Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

    Slotkin, a former Pentagon official, herself, pointed out in a letter dated July 25, the specific impacts that PFAS have had on Michigan’s water supply and praised Esper for starting a PFAS Task Force at the Department of Defense. Much of the state’s PFAS contamination is centered around military bases, like the shuttered Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda.

    “While the Department of Defense is by no means responsible for all PFAS contamination… [it] must identify an effective approach for remediation where it has caused contamination,” Slotkin wrote in the letter. “Environmental security is in fact homeland security, and it is clear that PFAS is a threat to our safety.”

    Recently, several Michigan members of Congress, including Slotkin, pushed for provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that would do more to study and regulate PFAS. U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) then accused the EPA of “dragging its feet,” saying “they’re not taking the action that they need to take. … We do need to set a standard to clean up to; then we need to start cleaning up.”

    The President Trump administration has objected to the proposed new standards and regulations, saying they would place an unacceptable burden on the Department of Defense.

    Wurtsmith Air Museum
    Wurtsmith Air Museum, near former the Air Force base from which PFAS has contaminated Oscoda | Michael Gerstein

    In her letter, Slotkin writes, “I know what an important role the Department of Defense has to play in PFAS contamination and clean-up in our state, and how hard it has been for the Department of Defense to accept responsibility for environmental clean up, given the use of aqueous film-forming firefighting foam across the country,” referring to a main source of PFAS in drinking water. 

    “But … when residents of the Great Lakes state, home to the greatest concentration of fresh water in the world, cannot hand our kids a glass of water with confidence that it is safe to drink, that is a threat to our way of life.”

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson covers local government, education, health care and the social safety net, and LGBTQ issues. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington, and before that covered local politics in Chicago. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He enjoys film, the Detroit Pistons and his cat. He once competed in the National Spelling Bee, but was eliminated before any potential ESPN appearances.

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