February 22, 2022

Duckworth Joins Peters, Moran, Capito, Klobuchar, Lummis to Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Reduce the Spread of Toxic PFAS at Commercial Airports


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), co-founder of the first-ever Senate Environment Justice Caucus, joined U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) to introduce bipartisan legislation to reduce the spread of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination at commercial airports. The Preventing PFAS Runoff at Airports Act would deploy more existing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding for commercial airports to purchase devices necessary to test their firefighting equipment without discharging toxic PFAS chemicals. This legislation would incentivize commercial airports to purchase the relatively low-cost devices – also referred to as an input-based testing system – to help limit and prevent exposure to PFAS, which are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down.

“We’ve known for decades that some PFAS chemicals pose a dangerous risk to public health,” said Senator Duckworth. “Despite this knowledge, we’ve continued to use these harmful foams to put out fires—especially at airports—and continued to allow them to seep into our ground, our water and ultimately to our neighbors and loved ones. We need to do more to reduce the spread of toxic PFAS contamination using common-sense solutions that are already available.”

Duckworth secured a provision in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to repair and modernize our water infrastructure and help address PFAS in drinking Duckworth also secured a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 to continue the effort to remove PFAS from servicemembers’ and military families’ drinking water by extending authority to transfer funds to studies of the health implications of PFAS and authorizing funding for the CDC to assess human health related to PFAS.

The FAA has required commercial airports nationwide to use firefighting foam that contains toxic PFAS chemicals. For years airports were required to discharge this foam as part of routine, federally-mandated testing of their firefighting equipment. This put firefighters, the environment and the public at risk from exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals. The Preventing PFAS Runoff at Airports Act would make more funding from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program available to commercial airports to purchase devices that avoid discharging PFAS chemicals when testing firefighting equipment. It would also direct the FAA to identify options for reimbursing airports in Michigan and elsewhere that already acquired the devices without federal funding.

“There’s no question that exposure to PFAS, including through contact with firefighting foam, presents serious risks to the health of first responders, residents in our local communities and the environment,” said Senator Peters. “This commonsense and fiscally responsible legislation would incentivize commercial airports nationwide to access existing federal funds to buy testing equipment that avoids spreading PFAS contamination into the environment. This bill would make this equipment more affordable, while protecting our airports, first responders, our communities and the Great Lakes.”

“Commercial airports ought to have the necessary equipment to test their firefighting equipment in a manner that does not expose firefighters or the surrounding communities to toxic PFAS foams,” said Senator Moran. “I’m pleased to introduce this legislation with Sen. Peters and my fellow colleagues, to promote the health and wellness of firefighters and aviation employees at commercial airports, as well as protect the communities that surround them.”

“The FAA requires regular testing of firefighting equipment, which may put undue burdens on regional, commercial airports, and lead to the discharge of harmful chemicals like PFAS,” said Senator Capito. “Specifically, the Preventing PFAS Runoff at Airports Act would benefit several airports in West Virginia – like Yeager, Greenbrier, and Mid-Ohio Valley – and improve overall safety of their operations. This bill would enable them to purchase equipment to test their airport rescue and firefighting equipment without dispersing PFAS foam, and I’m proud to join a bipartisan group of my colleagues today introducing it.”

“As we work to ensure the safety of all travelers and airport workers, reducing the spread of toxic substances must be a priority,” said Senator Klobuchar. “This bill will make a real difference by aiding airports in obtaining the equipment needed to help prevent toxic substance contamination. I’m glad to join a bipartisan group of my colleagues in introducing this legislation and look forward to moving this important bill forward.”

“PFAS contaminations around airports is a serious problem with a very easy solution. With simple testing solutions that are already funded under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Improvement Program, we can protect the environment without creating more burdensome regulations on small airports around Wyoming,” said Senator Lummis. “Thank you Senator Peters for your work on this legislation.”