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June 9, 2021

Reps. Kirkpatrick, Grijalva, O’Halleran and Senators Sinema, Kelly Lead Letter Calling for Urgent DOD Action on PFAS Clean-Up in Tucson

(Tucson, AZ) – Rep. Kirkpatrick led her Arizona colleagues, Senators Sinema, Kelly and Reps. Grijalva, and O’Halleran in sending a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin urging the DOD to prioritize attention on the worsening PFAS contamination issues in the City of Tucson and accelerate any remaining remedial investigations, expedite clean-up actions and prioritize the unique water source challenges this community faces.

The letter comes after Tucson Water announced that it is preparing for a temporary, indefinite shutdown of the Tucson Airport Remediation Project water treatment facility (TARP) on June 21, 2021, because of the increasing levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the groundwater wells serving the plant.

“The city of Tucson’s drinking water supply is threatened by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These substances have seeped into the community’s groundwater supply downgradient from the Arizona Air National Guard Base at the Tucson International Airport. This plume is in addition to the one that has spread into the Tucson community downgradient from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.  Both plumes require direct treatment to remove PFAS as Tucson is a closed basin water system in a federally designated Sole Source Aquifer,” the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers continued, “The closure will force Tucson to depend more heavily on other limited drinking water sources to meet the community’s needs, including water delivered from the Colorado River by way of the Central Arizona Project. However, climate change and current long-term drought has negatively impacted the water reservoirs of Lake Powell and Lake Mead. They are now at historically low levels, threatening the long-term sustainability of this water source.”

“Immediate action from all parties responsible for the PFAS groundwater pollution is needed to stop the spread of PFAS into the sole source aquifer.  DoD has contributed to the PFAS contamination of groundwater in the Tucson area from the use of AFFF for many decades. DoD has also failed to prioritize assistance and act as groundwater contamination continues to spread further into the Tucson community.  The city of Tucson is doing everything it can to protect its residents, often at a great financial cost.  It is past time for DoD to contribute to the solution.  We request you accelerate any remaining remedial investigations, expedite clean-up actions, and prioritize the unique water source challenges this community faces..” the lawmakers wrote.

Last month, Rep. Kirkpatrick participated in an Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on environmental restoration where her line of questioning focused on the DOD’s responsibility to address the PFAS contaminants in Tucson.

“My office has been working incredibly close with the City of Tucson to raise this issue in Congress, and we are aggressively advocating for additional federal support.  Earlier this year, my PFAS working group sent a letter to the Biden Administration outlining recommendations to direct the EPA to quickly finalize national drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick.

“Thanks to the rapid actions of Tucson Water, these contaminants are not currently endangering our community. However, this has come at a high financial cost to the city, and wells have been either completely shut down or placed in restricted use status. The indefinite closure of the TARP facility will require Tucson to supplement the drinking water supply with other forms of water, including water from the Colorado River through the Central Arizona Project. I have been concerned about Colorado River water reservoirs’ historically low water levels for years due to aging infrastructure, climate change, and a historic drought. As a member of the Appropriations Defense and Energy and Water Subcommittees, I have prioritized increasing federal resources to improve water delivery and conservation in the lower Colorado River basin. I have made PFAS removal and mitigation a top priority when questioning our defense leaders and determining funding priorities. I will continue to apply pressure and advocate for our desert city’s water,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick.

Read the full letter HERE.

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