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Schumer Has Been Leading The Charge For Decades Against Highly Toxic PFOA/PFOS Chemicals Which Are Common In Firefighting Foam, And Polluted Drinking Water Sources Across NY From Newburgh To Hoosick Falls To Niagara Falls & Watertown

In Just Passed FAA Reauthorization, Schumer Helped Establish A New Grant To Dispose Of PFAS Firefighting Foam, Decontaminate Equipment, & Transition Industry To Alternative Foams – Protecting NY Water Supplies, Boosting Public Health & Firefighter Safety

Schumer: Landing This Program Means We’re One Step Closer To Extinguishing PFAS In Drinking Water & Ensuring Safety, Health Of Our Dedicated Firefighters

Following years of advocacy to clean up dangerous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer today announced the first-of-its-kind new grant program to help airports dispose of PFAS used in firefighting foam and replace them with safer solutions for firefighters. Schumer said PFAS in firefighting foam put firefighters at risk of sickness and end up in communities’ water supplies, which is why he helped create this program in the just-passed Senate Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization so fire departments in New York and across the country could transition to non-toxic foam, protecting public health and safety.

“I saw firsthand the devastation that communities like Newburgh and Hoosick Falls experienced when PFAS from firefighting foam entered their water supply. For far too long, firefighters and families across New York have been on the frontlines of the devastating impacts of contamination from PFAS filled firefighting foam at our airports. Now we have the opportunity to craft a better path forward. I am proud to have helped create this first of its kind grant program to address PFAS contamination and help remove this toxic form of firefighting foam from our New York airports,” said Senator Schumer. “Our first responders shouldn’t have to expose themselves to harmful equipment with unnecessary PFAS to do their jobs and save lives. Our airports previously faced an impossible task of how they could transition to PFAS-free foam alternatives and replace contaminated equipment, but now they will be able to apply for federal support to accelerate that transition. With this new grant program, we are one step closer to extinguishing this source of PFAS contamination from our drinking water supplies and helping build a healthier future for New York.”

“Over the last few years, we have taken aggressive steps on the sustainability front at our airport to ensure we’re doing our part to protect our environment,” said Phil Calderone, CEO at Albany International Airport. “The successful disposal and replacement of airport firefighting foam containing PFAs is an important step in protecting our brave first responders, community and environment for generations. I commend Senate Majority Leader Schumer for his steadfast leadership on this important issue and look forward to our continued partnership as we work towards our sustainability goals at ALB.”

“The Syracuse Hancock International Airport thanks Senator Schumer for ensuring the new FAA bill includes important provisions that will help airports transition away from PFAS-containing firefighting foam.  For decades, the federal government has mandated that U.S. airports use firefighting foams containing PFAS.  Now that PFAS-free alternatives are available, we appreciate the recognition from Congress that the federal government should now assist airports in their efforts to transition to the safer alternatives.  The new FAA bill will, for the first time, authorize funding for airports to purchase fluorine-free firefighting foam and equipment, as well as to clean their old equipment and vehicles to handle the new foam.  It also will direct the FAA to develop a National Transition Plan for Airports that will serve as a roadmap for the industry during this transition period.  We look forward to working with Sen. Schumer and the rest of our congressional delegation to ensure these programs are fully funded in appropriations this year,” said Jason Terreri, Executive Director, Syracuse Regional Airport Authority.

“Thank you, Senator Schumer, for being a vocal advocate in helping airport fire departments transition away from the use of PFAS products. This bill and associated funding is a huge step forward for the health and safety of airport firefighters, the public at large and our environment,” said Andy Moore, Airport Director – Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport.

“The Port Authority applauds the recognition of the need to expeditiously transition from PFAS products and we thank Senator Schumer and our federal partners for securing funding which helps to meet this challenge,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton.

Schumer explained the PFAS Replacement Program for Airports authorizes federal funding to establish a grant program at the Department of Transportation to help airports transition to more environmentally friendly firefighting foam by providing the federal support needed to purchase fluorine-free foam (F3), dispose of PFAS products, including aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), clean and dispose of toxic equipment and purchase new equipment, free of PFAS, and replace aircraft rescue and firefighting equipment as necessary. The program will not only be used to purchase PFAS-free firefighting foam, but support new training, decontaminating equipment, and the associated costs of guiding the industry towards alternative foams.?

The FAA Bill authorizes up to $350 million in for the Replacement Program, including $30 million specifically to replace aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicles at eligible airports without existing F3 capabilities. The grant program will provide the funds at 100% federal cost share for airports across the country.

Schumer said this funding is vital because for decades, firefighters have used and trained with PFAS-based foam both at commercial and military airports. This foam is so harmful because when departments use foam in training, during a fire, or when washing down a drain in a fire track bay, PFAS will trickle into communities’ water supplies and soils. The PFAS in foam has contaminated drinking water for millions of people nationwide, while also putting firefighters at greater risk of toxic chemical exposures that can cause cancer and chronic disease.

Across New York State, PFAS from firefighting foam has caused major contamination. In 2016, PFAS were found at dangerously high levels in Washington Lake, Newburgh’s primary drinking water source. When this contamination was discovered, Schumer called on the Department of Defense to get moving on the environmental remediation of the toxic PFAS at the Stewart Air National Guard Base (ANGB), which was determined to be the cause of the contamination of Washington Lake as well as streams in the area. Schumer was a relentless advocate and secured a critical step in the PFAS clean-up process for Stewart ANGB and its surrounding communities in Orange County, New York – getting Stewart ANGB accepted into the well-funded and robust Defense Environmental Restoration Program to combat PFAS contamination.

In addition, Schumer has fought relentlessly to address the PFOA contamination at Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh – and at other PFAS-contaminated locations in New York, like Newburgh and near Gabreski Air Force Base in Suffolk County. In January 2016 Schumer, in a letter to Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, urged the company to address the contamination at Hoosick Falls. In May of 2016, Schumer pushed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately release its updated drinking water health advisory. Schumer said it was critical to address and remediate the full scope of the contamination and fought to get the critical Superfund designation for Hoosick Falls. In 2021, a study revealed combined levels of PFOA and PFOS reached as high as 1.3 million ppt at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station in Niagara County, New York. In 2019, the facility ranked seventh on a list of the 100 U.S. military sites most contaminated with PFAS. The Watertown City Fire Department just last year brought attention to this issue and said they have to wear gear containing PFAS to fight fires because they have no other option.

Schumer said the feds have made major strides in transitioning to other firefighting foams, including the requirement the DOD phase out firefighting foam containing PFAS by October 1, 2024. In December 2022, Congress also directed the FAA to create a transition plan to help U.S. airports switch to firefighting foams that do not contain PFAS. The FAA’s Aircraft Firefighting Foam Transition Plan, released in 2023, provides information on timelines, new techniques and training, decontaminating equipment, associated costs, and other important details to guide the industry in its change to alternative foams.? Additionally, in September 2023, the FAA announced that fluorine-free foam (F3) products had become available that met Military Specification, providing an option for airports to discontinue their use of PFAS-containing AFFF.?

Schumer explained this new program will add to the existing federal efforts to completely remove PFAS from airports, a major boost to firefighters’ and communities’ safety and public health.

From Hoosick Falls to Newburgh to Long Island to Rockland County, Schumer has a long history of fighting against PFAS pollution and for calling on the EPA to address the PFAS crisis, going back to a 2019 Capital Region visit, where he secured a commitment from the agency to set a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for highly toxic PFOA/PFOS chemicals. After the discovery of elevated PFAS well above the health advisory level in Rockland and Westchester homes, schools, and communities, Schumer visited Clarkstown in 2021 to once again call on the EPA to take immediate action to curb the toxic and dangerous problem spreading through the Hudson Valley. Following the Senator’s relentless push, the EPA heeded Schumer’s calls to better inform the Rockland community about their plans to address PFAS contamination, agreeing to answer residents’ questions at a Rockland County Legislature's Water Resources Task Force meeting. Just weeks later, Schumer secured a critical step in the PFAS clean-up process for Stewart Air National Guard Base (ANGB) and the surrounding Orange County community, getting ANGB accepted into the well-funded and robust Defense Environmental Restoration Program.

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are two types of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of manufactured chemicals, and are persistent in the environment and resist degradation. These toxic chemicals are often used to manufacture products like fabric protectors, firefighting foam, and stain repellents. They are common primary ingredients in the firefighting foam that firefighters use for training and fire-suppression exercises, according to state regulators. The EPA has set a health advisory level for PFOS and PFOA at 70 parts per trillion (ppt) and just recently set a federal drinking water standard. Exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to certain cancers and other serious adverse health effects.