As the federal government works to clean up PFAS contamination in water near military installations, it is clear that communities are an important partner, Brendan Owens, assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations, and environment, said Friday at a virtual forum.

The event was hosted by ADC and the Environmental Working Group and can now be viewed on YouTube.

“When we have a challenge that transcends our fence line, like PFAS, it is not a simple thing to get our hands around, but it is one that requires direct engagement with communities to be able to make sure that we are advancing solutions that are going to continue to allow the good relationships that we have with our defense communities,” Owens said.

He added that partnering with communities and other federal agencies to address PFAS is a priority for everyone at DOD, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Helen Duteau, chief of EPA’s Community Involvement & Program Initiatives branch, spoke about the resources EPA has for communities going through the cleanup process, including technical assistance, grant programs and job training.

“One of the big things that we’ve always heard is [that] we’re coming in to clean up these sites, but where are the jobs for the local community?” Duteau said. “And so we offer job training… so that people can come in and they can learn job skills, sort of life skills, and they can be certified to work on various types of hazardous waste jobs that our Superfund contractors can hire them for at the end of their training.”

Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment and energy resilience, said the military has stopped buying firefighting foam that contains PFAS and will stop using it entirely by 2026.

“We are working hard to establish alternatives,” Kidd said. “We now have the technical specifications… to have a non-PFAS containing alternative. And we have demonstrated a range of technologies such as floor drains and water suppression systems that will take the place of any firefighting foam.”

ADC/EWG video image