Read the full article by Monica Amarelo (EWG)

“The Department of Defense is failing to confront an almost $4 billion increase in the cost of cleaning up contaminated sites, many polluted by the ‘forever chemicals‘ known as PFAS. And its cleanup budget is falling behind, a new Environmental Working Group analysis finds.

The estimated total for cleaning up DOD sites has soared to $31 billion, up by $3.7 billion from 2016 to 2021, the last year the Pentagon provided estimates. Yet its cleanup budget increased just $400 million over the same period. It can’t tackle PFAS cleanup properly with this level of funding. 

Some sites plagued by these toxic chemicals might not get cleaned up for more than half a century.

The gap between the cost of cleaning up PFAS contamination and the military budget has grown at a record pace. But the Pentagon has low-balled its budget requests to Congress year after year. In fact, the DOD has asked for less cleanup funding in recent years than it received in 2016.

‘The DOD is facing a ticking cleanup time bomb as funding falls dramatically behind cleanup costs,’ said Jared Hayes, a senior policy analyst at EWG. ‘It’s clear that funding at current levels cannot possibly catch up to rising cleanup obligations.’

The DOD estimated in 2021 that the total funding needed to clean up active, inactive and former defense sites was $31 billion, though its cleanup budget request in fiscal year 2021 was just $1.3 billion. But the Pentagon’s estimates include only costs for sites known to require cleanup. They do not include what is likely the full cost of cleaning up hundreds of other contaminated sites.  

EWG estimates that the ongoing investigation and future cleanup of PFAS at the 700 known and suspected DOD contamination sites could cost tens of billions of dollars in coming years. At the Pentagon’s current pace, that cost – on top of the $31 billion cleanup backlog that doesn’t include the full cost of PFAS cleanup – means many installations won’t be cleaned up for 50 years or more.

It already looks as if PFAS cleanup will increase overall cleanup costs sharply. The DOD is just beginning to assess the scope of the contamination crisis. The Pentagon recently said it expects to need $7 billion after fiscal year 2023 to address PFAS pollution. That’s $2.2 billion over its earlier estimate, just a few months ago, and nearly $5 billion more than it estimated at the end of 2021

The DOD hasn’t yet estimated the full cost of cleaning up PFAS-contaminated sites, though Congress required the Pentagon to give it this information by last September.

Congress has tried to kick-start DOD cleanups by budgeting more than the Pentagon has requested. For fiscal year 2023, the Pentagon requested $1.4 billion for cleanups, and Congress budgeted $2.2 billion. For its fiscal year 2024 budget, now being debated in Congress, the DOD requested $1.5 billion – $700 million less than the amount budgeted for fiscal year 2023.

‘The department’s funding requests keep disappointing communities that are impacted by PFAS,’ said John Reeder, EWG vice president for federal affairs. ‘Our analysis shows Congress must give much more funding, or the problem will keep getting worse.’

EWG recommends that Congress provide at least $2.75 billion in total PFAS cleanup funding in fiscal year 2024. That would amount to $2 billion for active military sites under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program and $750 million to clean up former military installations through the department’s base closure account.”…