PETER HUGHES: All right, good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to today's Department of Defense PFAS discussion with Mr. Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment and energy resilience. My name is Peter Hughes with Defense Public Affairs, and while you can't see me, I am, in fact, here, and I'll be moderating our discussion today. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to meet with us this morning.
Before we begin, I just wanted to quickly go over some ground rules. This session is, of course, on the record and is being recorded. We will post a transcript to our website, defense.gov, shortly after the event.
During Mr. Kidd's presentation, all microphones will be muted until he's complete, and we thank you for the many questions we received from several of you. After the presentation, Mr. Kidd will respond to as many questions as time allows that are appropriate for him to respond to at the DOD level. Questions that are installation-specific or military service-specific will be responded to in writing after today's event or unless Mr. Kidd does know the issue personally and can address it here.
To ensure everyone in attendance can hear the question and answer, we'll call on you by name and organization so you can ask your question personally, at which time I will take you off mute, and we'll allow one question per organization so that everyone has the opportunity to ask a question in here for Mr. Kidd. If we have additional time we will go back around, start at the top of the list and continue until the end of the session.
Lastly, after today's session I'll be sending an email to each of you seeking your feedback on the engagement and to continue our conversation around PFAS for the DOD.
So thank you again for taking the time to join us today, and now, I'll turn it over to Mr. Kidd.
DASD RICHARD KIDD: Good morning, everyone. Peter, thank you very much for the introduction and for setting this up. I would like to thank everyone for attending today. I appreciate the questions in advance, and what will be the start of a dialogue between the Department of Defense and all stakeholders around the issues of PFAS.
As I indicated in my recent testimony to Congress, when we address the tough challenges related to PFAS cleanup, the rate of progress is primarily defined by the rules that govern our physical world. Physics, chemistry, science establish the realm of the possible and dictate much of the parameters of our work. Based on what we know today, it will take years to fully define cleanup requirements the department faces, and probably decades before that cleanup is complete.
Recognizing this, the department is planning for the long term. We are intent on making sustained progress on all PFAS challenges. We will continue to invest in science and technology, and we will demonstrate a commitment to clear and constructive dialogue with all stakeholders, such as -- such as the participants today.
So as we begin that dialogue, what I'm going to do today is provide a macro overview of how the department is organized around the issue of PFAS, a description, you know, in detail of where we are in the cleanup program, and then a summary timeline of -- of DOD's PFAS actions to date. And then hopefully, we'll do that in about 30 minutes and allow 30 minutes for -- for questions and answers. This is the first of what will be a deliberative process of engagement and dialogue. We plan to do meetings similar to this at least once a quarter, and we'll go into deep dives on specific subjects in the future.
So next slide, please. And actually, one more slide. There we go. All right.
So I want to start with a -- with an overview of roles and responsibilities so that all of you can understand how this very large bureaucracy, the Department of Defense, is organized. At the top, of course, is the Office of the Secretary of Defense -- the Secretary of Defense and the office that supports that position. This is where I sit as the deputy assistant secretary for environment and energy resilience. Our role at -- at the OSD level is to develop policies. These policies, in turn, go to the military departments of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, which then develop implementing instructions and guidance for the installations. The installation command structures are the ones that actually execute PFAS cleanup.
So as you seek to engage with the Department of Defense, it's important to know where in the structure is -- it is best to send your questions or inquiries, and we can certainly facilitate that. But as you see, policy flows down, while execution information flows up.
Specific to PFAS is in July of 2019 then-Secretary of Defense Esper created the DOD PFAS Task Force. This task force includes senior representatives from each of the military departments, the National Guard, DOD Health Affairs and DLA. This PFAS Task Force develops and issues those policies that we've talked about intending to integrate, accelerate and achieve a holistic response on a -- on the part of the entire department.
While the task force was created in the previous administration, this administration has continued it, has added emphasis to our work, and we regularly brief the highest members of the department on our activities.
So this -- this slide demonstrates how the money flows, and there are many -- have been many questions about our funding levels and what we use the money for. So to date, we've spent approximately $1.1 billion addressing all aspects of PFAS. We develop our requirements -- so if you see it there in the top-left quadrant of the chart -- and those go into the president's budget request, which is then acted on by Congress and comes back to the Department of Defense. The vast majority of the money that comes to the Department of Defense flows down what would be the left-hand column of this chart, so it goes in three accounts -- defense environmental restoration, BRAC and operations and maintenance -- to the military departments. The military departments then allocate these funds for the -- the execution of cleanup, and this execution is -- is in most cases performed by environmental restoration contractors.
On the right hand side, some portion of the funding comes to the department where we use it to fund our research and development activities through the SERDP and ESTCP programs, which -- which are -- are -- are great R&D efforts, I'm going to highlight them a little bit later on in the presentation, but look forward to perhaps taking a deep dive at a later date on -- on -- on where our R&D efforts are focused.
So currently, we estimate that our -- our PFAS cleanup costs will be approximately $2 billion. We know that this amount is going to change as we continue the CERCLA-driven investigation process and better understand the dynamics of the challenge at hand. So if you recall, years to define the problem, in -- in my earlier statement. As we define the problem, we will update the requirements and bring that back into the budget.
So what is PFAS? I mean, many of you on this -- on -- on the call know this very well. I mean, PFAS is ubiquitous. It's out there in our environment, in the commercial sector. It's -- it's present because the -- these chemicals provide valuable benefits to products -- they protect against heat and stains and water and grease. And -- and these -- these products are not unique to DOD. Like all of you, DOD has a -- has these products containing PFAS in our carpets, clothing, furniture and packaging. What sets DOD apart is the mission that we have to rapidly suppress fires that -- that involve jet fuel.
To do this, the Department of Defense uses AFFF firefighting foam, which contains PFAS. AFFF is mission critical because it quickly extinguishes petroleum-based fires, it protects lives and equipment. The Department of Defense is not the only user of AFFF. Other users include commercial airports, oil and gas industry, and local fire departments.
I would note the picture here is actually of the department testing a PFAS-free AFFF alternative, which we conducted in May. It was a large scale fire test. And for those who -- who -- just to be clear, that we do not do any testing of any AFFF or AFFF alternatives if we do not have the means to properly contain and dispose of the -- the product.
So PFAS, as you know, refers to a large class of substances that include PFOS and PFOA. May 19th of 2016, the EPA issued Safe Drinking Water Act lifetime health advisories for these two chemicals, that they, either individually or combined, may not exceed 70 parts per trillion.
This is an important milestone in the department's response to PFAS. It is important to note that -- that this standard applies to drinking water. Throughout the -- the remainder of this presentation, I will work -- I will work to make it clear the distinction between our actions around drinking water and our actions around groundwater.
When it comes to PFAS, the department follows the federal cleanup law, the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, CERCLA, also known as Superfund. This is a longstanding EPA regulation for all chemicals in our cleanup program, not limited to PFAS.
Next slide? As you see here, the CERCLA process involves many steps, it takes some time to complete, but it also provides consistency in approach that applies to everyone and includes the opportunity for stakeholder input.
For example, as we move through the CERCLA process, we work in collaboration with regulatory agencies at both the -- the federal and state level, local communities and other stakeholders to ensure as a transparent and open process as possible, as well as to come up with solutions and remedies that are deemed acceptable by all of the stakeholders.
So I want to talk a little bit about, you know, while the entire CERCLA process does take time to complete, there are -- there are off-ramps for rapid, short term actions, all right? And in terms of -- this allows the department to take quick actions to provide alternative water when PFOS or PFOA from DOD activities is found in drinking water above EPA's health advisory.
This step ensures that -- that -- it -- this -- this step enables the Department of Defense to stop exposure to PFAS and PFOS -- PFOA in drinking water while we continue the long term investigation and remediation activities.
When we detect PFOS in drinking water, the initial short term action -- provision of bottled water, for example -- can occur in less than 96 hours. So such short term actions or removal actions include bottled water, well head -- well head filters and connections to municipal water sources.
These short term actions can occur anytime throughout the CERCLA process. If we find PFOS or PFOA above the EPA advisory levels, we act and we act quickly. But while these short term actions can occur within days, the longer term actions related to clean up of groundwater are where progress is measured in years. And in the next few slides, I want to walk you through an outline of why this is the case.
So in this figure, we see -- we -- we diagram out the -- the use of AFFF related to an aircraft fire. The purple plume represents a PFAS groundwater plume, and imagine this spreading out both horizontally and vertically, and it has a rate of propagation throughout the soil.
There are many physical characteristics that -- that determine the nature of this plume, from how much AFFF was used, the soil structure, the rate of precipitation and -- and -- and many other physical characteristics. Defining and understanding these physical characteristics is -- is essential to developing effective, long term risk response.
So as you can see in this figure, PFAS in groundwater does not always mean PFAS in well water or drinking water, depending on the depth of the PFAS and the depth of the well. As you see in well number 3, there would be no PFAS entering that well. And also, the groundwater flow may flow away from a well, such as in well number 1.
So let's zoom in and take a closer look at our plane and well number two. As I mentioned earlier, the CERCLA process includes the ability for DOD to take short term actions to address PFOS and PFOA in drinking water. When this occurs, we immediately provide bottled water or point of use filters while we determine the most appropriate drinking water solution, such as a whole house filter, a well head or connection to a municipal system.
DOD has taken short term actions for off-base drinking water at 49 locations. The same techniques that we used to -- to filter at a specific location are also the techniques -- essentially the same technology used for removing PFAS from groundwater.
After we have defined the extent and nature of the plume in the groundwater, the department will drill wells at strategic locations and pump the PFAS-containing water out of the ground, through a filter and back into the ground. This process is known as pump and treat and has been used for decades for the cleanup of other chemicals. Can take a long time. Especially when the standard is measured in parts per trillion. In light of that DOD is investing significant amounts of funds in research and development of new technologies.
In this slide, you see some of the options that we have for addressing water at the wellhead, at the -- at the house, the short-term actions as well as what the longer-term actions could be for groundwater treatment. Because of the -- the current chemical limitations, we are making significant efforts to develop and evaluate new technologies for the treatment of PFAS.
DOD has invested $90 million through FY21 and plans a further investment of $70 million through FY25. Next slide. These efforts include a range of activities related to PFAS detection, analysis, treatment, and in situ destruction. We plan -- we will -- we plan to go into these research efforts in greater detail in a future session but I think it is worth noting that right now the Department of Defense has the largest R&D program focused on these problems in the federal government.
All right, so, next slide, and let us return to the CERCLA process. And take a look at where we the department are in the steps of this process. As many of you know, the first step is the preliminary assessment site inspection phase. This is where -- this is the phase that is used to determine whether release occurred, we look at historical records, visit the site, perhaps examine sampling and spill results.
Currently, the Department of Defense has identified 698 installations, including National Guard sites where PFAS may have been used and potentially released. We have conducted or are conducting PA/SIs at all of these installations. And I repeat that, all DOD installations are now in the CERCLA process and are under investigation.
Next slide. Of these 698 installations, 129 have completed the PA/SI process. Of 129, 63 were found to have had -- were to require no further action. So, this has reduced the total number of sites in the department to essentially 635 sites. Of the 129 that have completed the -- the PA/SI, 66 have moved on to the next phase of the CERCLA process, which is remedial investigation and feasibility study phase.
Now, I'll just remind you where I made mention earlier on about the requirements portion of the budget slide. As we go through the CERCLA process, particularly as we start to come out of the remedial investigation and feasibility study phase, we will start to better understand our options for long-term clean-up.
And as we understand those options, that's where we will build the -- the cost estimates to flow back through the budget process. Next slide, please. All right. So, we're here, we're going to go through a timeline starting with that 2016 EPA designation, and outline all the steps that the department has taken since then.
So, in 2016 the EPA made the designation, next slide. We directed at that time the -- the elimination of uncontrolled, land-based use of AFFF. We no longer use AFFF on land for maintenance, testing, or training unless it can be fully contained and appropriately disposed of.
So, now the only use of AFFF on land is to actually fight a fire, or an appropriately controlled testing environment. Next slide. So, also in 2016 following EPA's health advisory, the department began taking action to address drinking water impacted by DOD's releases of PFOS or PFOA.
The department tested all of its -- it started testing all of its DOD-operated drinking water system, which included over 500 sites. And we took immediate action in 34 of those sites quickly bringing the PFOS/PFOA levels down below the EPA health advisory of 70 parts per trillion. The department has issued policies in 2020 for continued periodic testing of all of the DOD-operated water systems.
Slide. And next slide. And -- and finally, in 2016, we started the important process of tracking the PFAS related activities. So, while we normally track clean-up writ large to track via chemical is something we don't normally do, but it's something we started for PFAS in 2016. Next slide. So, in 2017 while we continued all of the activities begun in the prior year, we started to make some additional investments.
So, this is when we started our investment in developing AFFF alternatives. So, since 2017, we have spent $28 million to test nearly 20 potential PFAS free AFFF replacements. Some of which are commercially available. We are moving through that testing process, again, you see the picture of the most recent test. And we believe that we have, you know, a number of promising candidates.
What is challenging for the department is that we have to have -- we have a number of promising candidates that will be able to suppress jet fuel-based fire but as we continue our investigation we must also consider factors such as compatibility, corrosiveness, viscosity, and human health and ecological toxicity.
So, in other words, while we may find an AFFF replacement that in regards to fire suppression, that alternative must also work within the current systems and equipment in order to allow a rapid transition. Also in 2017, the department replaced all of its -- began replacing all of its legacy AFFF with newer formation -- formulations that have much lower concentrations of these chemicals.
So, going into 2018 -- here we go, all right. So, DOD continued, again, continued all of the multi-year effort that we started in the previous years. We completed our initial testing of all DOD-operated drinking water systems and as I indicated will continue periodic testing.
Also in 2018, the Department of Defense began working with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to conduct PFAS exposure assessments. Including current and former installations, as well as multi-site health studies. To date, the department has provided ATSDR with $55 million to support these activities.
In 2019, this is the -- the year when we -- when the PFAS Task Force was established. When it was established the task force had three primary goals. To mitigate or eliminate the use of current AFFF, to fulfill our clean-up responsibilities related to PFAS, and to understand the PFAS impacts on human health.
While the task force was established in 2019, as we -- as I've already noted, many of the activities had already been occurring for some time. The intent of the task force was to integrate and accelerate the execution of those activities across the entire department.
Within being established -- within three months of being established, the task force issued 22 separate actions inside the DOD requesting data, developing and propagating policies, and issuing guidance. Part of this was driven by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, part of it was also driven by the recognition as we've learned throughout the previous years of what we could be doing better.
In addition to continuing all of our ongoing efforts in 2021, this is the year that we established our PFAS website. So I know many of you have been asking about improvements on our -- on our PFAS website. Well, at 1100 today -- time when I started talking, our new website should have gone live. I haven't had a chance to test that, but if it hasn't let us know. We'll get it up to date.
But it's intended to be interactive and will allow the downloading of data sheets for those sites that have -- where we have found PFAS in drinking water. Over time, we will continue to develop data sheets for all the installations that the department is working on related to PFAS.
Also in 2021, we initiated the PFAS blood testing level for DOD firefighters during their annual physical exam.
As you've seen, PFAS is a multi-year and -- if not multi-decade effort without a rapid solution. It will take many years for us to define the problem, and in some cases decades to clean it up. DOD is working continuously to improve the timelines of the program deliverables as well as contribute to the transparency of the department's efforts.
A few words on the PFAS Task Force health activities, you know, the Department of Defense, we continue to collaborate with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services and other federal agencies to better understand the impact of -- on human health.
This collaboration has -- has grown recently in that the Secretary of Defense met with the EPA administrator for over an hour and much of that conversation was on PFAS. And there was a high-level commitment made to coordinate our activities between this department and EPA on all aspects of PFAS. And -- and we're working closely with EPA's PFAS -- PFAS Council, which was recently established by the administrator.
And as we get to our last slide, this administration -- the new team here in the department said it was extremely important that -- that we as a department do a better job of collaboration, outreach, and listening and learning from all those impacted by PFAS.
So to that end, a fourth goal was added to the PFAS Task Force which is to expand our public engagement and outreach activities. As I indicated at the beginning of the -- of this conversation, this is the first one of such activities. We intend to have quarterly events over time with senior government -- senior officials from the department.
We also recognize that some of the most important communication occurs at the -- at the local level. And we're going to look at our guidance and training that we provide to installations to -- to see if there's ways that we can identify and propagate best practice across the department.
Following this presentation, we're going to ask all of you to give us a little feedback, what things could we have done a little bit differently here. Also, we'd ask for your input as to what topics you would like to see done in a more detailed manner. If you want to look more closely at AFFF replacement or how are we doing on cleanup technologies or a more detailed update on -- on some specific locations or specific steps in the -- in the CERCLA process.
I'm open to all of those ideas, I'm committed to being engaged, I'm committed to -- to meeting and interacting with all of you and I look forward to, in fact, doing some traveling at some point in the future and being able to visit some of the sites and locations in -- impacted by PFAS.
So with that, I'll turn it back to Peter and we'll go ahead and get into the questions. Thanks.
MR. HUGHES: All right, thank you, Mr. Kidd, for that presentation. So what we're going to do now -- I've allowed all of you to unmute yourselves when I call on you to ask a question, so find your mute buttons, and what we're going to do is, again, go through organization by name and give you each an opportunity to ask one question, and I'm going to do that based on when I received your RSVP and your submitted questions.
So we'll begin with Pat Elder, Military Poisons. Go ahead and unmute and please ask your question.
Q: Thank you very much. You -- the Navy -- it reported finding 7.9 million parts per trillion of PFOS and 17,800 parts per trillion of PFOA in the sub-soil at the Naval Research Laboratory Chesapeake Bay Detachment. Are these the highest numbers on any U.S. military installation worldwide? I mean, just -- just a yes or no answer would be great. Thank you.
MR. KIDD: Yeah, hey, Pat, that's a -- that's a great question. And I -- and as I read it today -- or actually last night, I've got to tell you, I don't know, OK? I don't know whether it's -- whether we can give you a yes or no.
You know, I'm not familiar with the specifics of every site across the department. We will refer this question to the Navy and we'll try to get you a written response.
Q: Thank you.
MR. HUGHES: All right, thank you. Next question is from Environmental Working Group. Do we have Scott Faber on or a representative?
Q: Yes, good morning, everyone. Thanks -- thanks, Richard, for hosting this event. I know we're certainly interested in getting more briefings on some of the other subjects you mentioned. One -- one quick question is you mentioned the number of sites where there are still site investigations on -- under -- underway to determine whether PFAS is present. Can you tell us a little bit more about when we'll be able to answer those questions definitively?
MR. KIDD: Answer -- answer what -- what question, Scott? I ...
Q: Whether -- whether PFAS is present at those sites and the amount of the -- the -- the detection numbers for those sites and proximity to communities and potential contamination of wells. When do you think we'll have a complete picture of the contamination problem on defense installations?
MR. KIDD: Right. So -- so we're committed to try to get through all of the PA/SIs by the end of 2023, and as that -- as we work through that process, the information will become available over time and we'll -- as I said, we started with the -- on our website, with the data about the contaminated water -- or the -- about PFAS in water and we're going to move on to the other sites as we look at groundwater.
As you know, even after the PA/SI is done, we're not going to have definitive information about the full extent of the challenge, and that will come, again, through the -- through the follow-on on -- on steps in the process.
But -- but basically, what -- we're committed to getting through that phase of CERCLA by the end of 2023 on the known installations. You know, we could have another installation that -- that comes up later on that -- that weren't in the original 698.
Q: Great. Thank you.
MR. KIDD: Hey -- and I'll see you this afternoon.
Q: Looking forward to it. Thank you.
MR. HUGHES: All right, thank you. Next organization -- Green Science Policy. Do we have Arlene or Hannah with a question?
Q: Unmute finally. Hi, this is Arlene. Yeah, thank you for all of that wonderful information. I wondered about where you were with the provisions from the 2020 NDAA. The easy one was are you managing to phase out PFAS in Meals, Ready-to-Eat packaging? And the harder one is where are you in phasing out all PFAS firefighting foam for all uses?
MR. KIDD: Yeah, so -- so on the -- so I actually -- the -- the -- the AFFF replacement is -- is the easier one to answer, OK, because it's one -- it's -- it's one item. So as I indicated in the presentation, we're taking this challenge seriously, we've spent $28 million to find alternatives and we have -- are testing those alternatives and we are cautiously optimistic that we will find a replacement that does not contain PFAS, that can meet many of our requirements.
The challenge will be whether we can physically transition that into our existing equipment and apparatus in a way that allows us a drop-in replacement on a timeline to meet the NDAA provisions, cause there's a very strict timeline -- timeline in the NDAA.
And, you know, personally, I have as much concern about the engineering as I do about, you know, developing an alternative. Our ...
Q: Are you considering not having a drop-in, cause maybe that drop-in is -- gets you in trouble?
MR. KIDD: We're -- we're considering all options. You know, we have a -- we -- we have a -- a wide spectrum and -- and we're -- we're certainly looking at -- at the ability -- what does it mean if -- if we go for something other than a drop-in? But I think we're -- we're cautiously optimistic, I'll just put it that way. And, you know, again, this is a great topic we could go into. We've got video and some other things to show you about how some of these alternatives are working.
Now, the challenge with MREs -- so -- so we're working on -- we're working on the MRE challenge and I think we can -- we can -- we can get there. You know, so that's Section 329. But, you know, PFAS -- as I said earlier, PFAS is in all sorts of packaging materials, right, not just MREs.
So we're going to start with MREs but -- but we're going to continue where we can and we have information available to work through all of our packaging requirements, particularly those that are closest to our service members.
Q: Great to hear you doing that. Thank you.
MR. HUGHES: All right, thank you. Next up, Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition. Do we have Mark?
Q: Yes, hi, I'm on. Thank you. Just two quick questions. One, you talk about CERCLA. But in Colorado Springs, you know, El Paso County Colorado, we're really exposed. A Department of Defense agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told Fort Carson in 1991 that AFFF was toxic and to replace it with something non-toxic, which they did several years after that.
So why was the Department of Defense able to do this in 1991 and now they -- 20 years later, they're delaying, saying they have to wait on the EPA and CERCLA when, you know, they've done it in the past?
And the other quick question is, is the Department of Defense locating other military veterans who have been exposed or have since then moved on out of the areas, so they can, you know, know that they have been possibly exposed to -- to PFAS and so they -- they can be -- you know, due diligence about their health and the welfare of their families?
Like, a lot of my family members who are veterans, they were in Colorado Springs during the exposure, but now they've been stationed to other places throughout the country. And thank you very much.
MR. KIDD: Yeah, Mark, thanks -- thanks for those -- for those important questions. So you know, I'm not -- again, I'm not familiar on the details of the specifics of Colorado Springs and the story line that you told at the beginning, so I -- I think it's, you know, probably best not to say much about that.
What -- what I can say is, you know, we are starting, as I said, to track the firefighter exposure and firefighter blood, and we're working with the Veterans Affairs to look at life's -- you know, lifetime exposure for a variety of hazards across service members.
The challenge is, you know, one of the challenge when we -- when we look at blood levels and -- and the health issues is -- is what's the standard, OK? So 98 percent of us, basically, in America, everyone on this call has some level of PFAS in our blood. So what is the standard by which we ascertain there is a health -- a possible health problem or health threat, and what corrective actions or medical actions are required?
So we're -- we're going to require -- we, the Department of Defense, are going to rely a lot on our sister agencies that have greater expertise on -- on health -- human health matters, as I mentioned, you know, CDC and -- and V.A. and others. But we're going to start to collect the data starting with our firefighters and -- and -- and look at what happens over time. And the work that ATSDR is doing is also very important for this.
MR. HUGHES: All right, thank you. Just a reminder to everyone to -- to save any confusion, if you get into an installation-specific question, it'll likely be taken and responded to in writing through coordination with the services, so if we can keep the questions to Mr. Kidd focused more at the DOD level, and -- really, about the content of the brief and the -- and the overall presentation that'll help, and that way, we can get back around and give everybody an opportunity to ask more than one.
OK, next up, Pace, Lori -- are you there?
Q: Yes, I'm here. Hi. I'm sitting here with Mass Audubon, and I've got a couple of campers with me that are observing this presentation, so thank you so much.
When you talked about how the limit of 70 that's established at the federal level is probably not protective from a number of perspectives, and many states have much stricter regulations. And so if you're addressing issues -- I'm in Massachusetts, in the state of Massachusetts -- will you be looking at -- at 70, or at 20 for the six compounds that are regulated here?
And related to that, as time goes on, is it likely -- hopefully possible that the regulation will be more protective than many of us feel that it is right now?
MR. KIDD: So hey Lori, first, can I ask you a question? Where are you? Where -- where -- what building? Are you out of -- are you on Cape Cod?
Q: No, we are in Worcester, Massachusetts.
MR. KIDD: OK, so you have a great -- you have a -- a great facility out at Cape Cod, and my son was a camper many years at Mass Audubon in -- in -- in Cape Cod, so I -- I'd just say that, you know, for our family, you know, you run great little program.
But you ask a really hard question. So look, so we follow the CERCLA process. Once a cleanup action has been determined as needed under CERCLA, you know, if it's -- if it's drinking water, federal and state standards apply, all right? So whatever standards are there, that applies for -- for -- for drinking water.
When it comes to groundwater, there's a process, you know, “applicable or relevant and appropriate requirements” where the state -- the state standards factor into what is the appropriate response, all right? So we do consider them in developing the appropriate response.
Now, as I said at the beginning of the -- of the presentation, you know, the CERCLA process involves a dialogue between -- between the department, federal regulators, state regulators and stakeholders. So in that -- in that dialogue will come out what -- what -- what will be hopefully agreed upon or -- or -- or a minimally-acceptable standard to -- to the parties that are involved.
You know, I -- I think that you know, generally speaking from the department's perspective, we would appreciate regulatory clarity and uniformity to the extent possible between all our regulatory agencies. It just makes things easier and faster, quite frankly, as we would like it as a department if -- if we can have some regulatory certainty out there.
Also, one of the challenges is, you know, you could set a -- you could -- there's a -- there's a trade-off between time and -- and the -- the level of -- of -- of cleanup required, and if the standard is extremely low, you know -- so EPA's standard is 70 parts per trillion. If the standard gets extremely low, are we even physically capable of meeting that standard, all right? Do we have the technology to get to that standard in groundwater?
So -- so there -- there -- there's some challenges out there, but I think -- I -- I think the key takeaways for you are we follow the CERCLA process. State standards factor into that process. And as a -- you know -- you know, from a cleanup perspective, we would appreciate regulatory -- regulatory clarity and uniformity.
Q: Thank you.
MR. HUGHES: All right, thank you. Next up, NPCC and NOW, Anthony Spaniola.
Q: Thank you very much, and Mr. Kidd, thank you for meeting with us all today. We greatly appreciate it. My question has to do with funding, and I know you touched on it a little bit in your presentation, and mine stems from the communications that we've received in -- in Oscoda. We've been at it for 11 years with the Air Force, and we have been told consistently over the years that the reason for the -- the delays in Oscoda has been that there's not sufficient funding from Congress to address DOD PFAS contamination, and I know others around the country have heard the same thing. What -- what we see, and in speaking with our members of Congress, they've consistently appropriated more PFAS funding than DOD has requested in its budget proposals. And so we're left on the ground asking the question, why did DOD representatives blame Congress for inadequate funding for PFAS, when Congress gives DOD more than DOD requests? And the -- the follow-on to that is, why isn't DOD submitting budget proposals that realistically address the problem?
MR. KIDD: Yeah, hey, Anthony, I knew from our earlier dialogue that you'd have a hard question for me, and you didn't disappoint, so thanks.
Look, I can't -- I -- I can't explain what was or wasn't set up in Oscoda. All I can say is that, you know, in my six months on the job I have been very appreciative of the funding support that we've received from Congress, all right? I've gone to the Hill many times and they have been open to all of our requests. They understand where we are in the CERCLA process, and they have consistently met all the needs and requirements that we have brought to -- to -- to Congress.
So I'll check back in and see if -- if -- if the installation doesn't think it's got adequate funding, that is something that -- that I, in this role, can -- can -- can certainly address as we go through the budget -- the -- the budget cycle.
In terms of, you know, the macro numbers, you know, talk a little bit about PFAS. We've got a lot of money from Congress, and with that money, we were able to start investigations on all 698 installations. So thanks to Congress, you know, a year ago, some of those investigations hadn't started. So thanks to Congress we -- we've got those investigations started, and some of them are rapidly moving into the next phase, and we're on track to complete in 2023. So that's all because of the money that Congress has given us to date. We've expanded our research and development activities from, you know, Dr. Herb Nelson's ESTCP and SERDP programs. So there's lots of goodness in that funding proposal.
Right now, this year you'll probably see our -- our funding request go down. And it'll probably be down and flat for a year or two as we get through the CERCLA process, define the characteristics of the groundwater plume, and then can go after it.
MR. HUGHES: All right, thank you.
Next up, Testing for Pease, Andrea?
Q: Mr. Kidd, thank you so much for this meeting today and knowing that we'll have more future meetings. I did have a question about state standards and Lori asked that. I guess my other question would be around a more detailed timeline for communities as to when they can expect DOD action. I feel like many communities are in the dark about what to expect. You mentioned the CERCLA process. I haven't had a chance to look at your website that changed as of 11:00 a.m. Are communities going to be able to glean more meaningful timelines from DOD as to when we can expect investigations, cleanup, actions, et cetera?
MR. KIDD: So Andrea, yes, that's our intent. I mean, we -- we -- we want to get this information out there in a -- in a manner that's understandable and clear to communities as to where they are in the process and where they can expect to be over time.
And I would just -- you know, in the CERCLA process when I talked about earlier on, there's -- you know, there's -- immediate action that is allowable for -- for drinking water. We can also do interim remedial – correction - immediate removal action is allowable for drinking water that we can move fairly quickly on.
We don't have to go through the entire CERCLA process before we can also take an interim remedial action for groundwater. And a number of -- of installations, you know, across the department's portfolio are going to start to roll out interim remedial actions here in the next -- the next few months. I think -- I think there's some actually coming out this summer and then there'll be more in the next year.
But to your question about transparency, yes, I'm committed to that. It'll -- it'll take us a little bit of time to get all the information up to the level of detail that you and others would expect, but we're committed to doing that.
Q: Thank you.
MR. HUGHES: All right, thanks. Next up, Joanne Stanton from Buxmont Coalition for Safer Water. I know you submitted a question and it looks as if it's site-specific. Did you have one that was more broad or general? Again, Mr. Kidd probably wouldn't be able to address a site-specific disposal question.
Q: Well, it was just an example. I mean, actually my question -- Mr. Kidd, first of all thank you so much for hosting today's session and for all the information that you have provided. I truly understand there are so many challenges with cleaning up legacy PFAS pollution at the DOD sites.
At our particular site, we moved 3,500 tons of highly contaminated soil, just down the road to a landfill. That potentially threatens drinking water that's being used from the Schuylkill River for all of Philadelphia.
I guess the question generally is what are you doing to improve these types of attempts at PFAS cleanup? Also, sometimes they're being sent to incinerators --
MR. KIDD: Yes --
Q: -- didn't know if you had any comments on that.
MR. KIDD: No, Joanne, that's a great question. And it raises a challenging issue for all of us, whether it's the department or others, who are looking at what do we do when we collect up the -- the PFAS, whether it's in drinking water or groundwater.
We use the filtration process. We now have an activated carbon filter that's filled with PFAS or we have a drum of highly concentrated material. So what -- you know, what do we do with that? And that is a challenge.
So, you know, the short answer for the department is we follow the appropriate laws and regulations, right. So, we follow the disposal guidance issued by EPA and, which is essentially, you know, two options right now.
Which is to put it in a -- in an appropriately regulated and certified landfill or as you mentioned, to -- to incinerate it, OK. Those are the two options now, EPA has published, you know, for public comment a new proposed set of guidance. I think that the comment period is closed. We expect to get that guidance out of EPA and then we will immediately propagate that to the services and adjust our actions accordingly. But the challenge is that there's no -- there's -- there might not be a good -- a good alternative. So, if we can't put it in a landfill and we can't incinerate it, then what do we do with it? Do the drums stay on-site in the local communities, we don't know.
That's one of the reasons why we're investing a lot of money in this. So, again, the Department of Defense is -- has the largest investment stream in the federal government in terms of research and development for the destruction of PFAS. I'd like to say I'm cautiously optimistic but right now we're still years away from -- from a technological solution.
And this is a -- something we've had conversations with Congress about and -- and is something that, you know, I'd like to see if we can -- all that we can do to accelerate the R&D on this disposal question. Because it's a -- it's an important issue. It doesn't just affect the department, it affects communities, and industry, and -- and everyone else out there. So...
Q: Thank you.
MR. KIDD: That -- does that answer your question?
Q: Yes. I guess my concern is that it's just putting the PFAS, you know, because PFAS isn't breaking down and these methods are not an exact science. And -- and many have had criticisms to the techniques. And we're just moving the pollution to another -- another area. So, thank you.
MR. HUGHES: All right, thank you. Next on the list, Ms. Mello -- Kristin Mello with Westfield Residents Advocating for Themselves.
Q: Thank you very much and thank you for including us and for your presentation. I sent you a lot of question. I can generalize two of them. And very much am interested in the answers. My question number 10 that I sent was does the DOD treat every PFAS contaminated site equally?
And how investigation mitigation or mediation varies among sites the time and money spent, does it, you know, expect geography, other countries, you know, who's in Congress, who's in the White House. You know, what factors can community members help to control for advocating for ourselves.
But it's specifically to your presentation, under what circumstances would DOD elect not to take short-term removal actions to address off base resident's drinking water? Like, how come some people get bottled water and some people don't? Like, what are -- what are the -- what are the rules about how this works?
And my second question, which I can generalize because I'm most familiar with my own site. I will say that part G of page five of the lease agreement between the DOD and the city of Westfield says in part that the government shall be responsible for remediating to the state or federal promulgated standard whichever is more stringent concerning any soil or water contamination resulting from their activities on the leased premises.
So, I'm wondering whether or not that lease would be standard across all DOD sites? You know, is it boilerplate? And if so, how does the difference -- if the state has promulgated both ground water and drinking water standards? And the state of Massachusetts in particular has promulgated the ground water standard to protect aquifers and drinking water how does that not -- how is the DOD not required to meet those standards if the lease agreements say that they do? And thank you for your time.
MR. KIDD: All right, you know, Kristin, thanks. Thanks for all your -- your -- your questions and while we're not going to get all of them, they were -- they were really thought-provoking in -- and -- and I actually enjoy reading them and trying to understand.
It -- it helped me try to wrestle with some of the issues that you're wrestling with. It helped, you know, it helped me understand your perspective a little better. So, I appreciate that. You know, I count -- I actually count you asked four questions. And two of them are easy so on the -- on the lease agreement I will defer to counsel if you don't mind.
As to, you know, maybe you can follow-up with Peter and if you could send us that lease -- if we get a copy of the lease we'll take a look and answer whether or not it is -- is or is not a standard clause in a lease agreement. In terms of state versus federal standards, I think I already answered that question.
You know, the state standards do come into the CERCLA process. For drinking water we use -- we use both. So, whichever one, you know, they're both applicable for drinking water. For ground water, it's a part of the dialogue with the regulatory agencies in the communities as we put in place long-term clean-up options.
In terms of process in treatment of sites differently. So, all sites enter the CERCLA process on an equal basis, OK. As we develop information about those sites then we treat them differently. So, in my diagram about the 63 sites -- 66 sites where no further action is required we had indication that we might have used PFAS.
So, we went out and we -- might have used AFFF. We went out, we investigated, there was no -- there's no records of ever having AFFF on-site, it wasn't used, there weren't helicopters or airplane. So, those sites were treated differently. They were dropped off the list.
As we go down further and we get more information the biggest categorization is risk. So, we start to address sites based on risk. And we prioritize, you know, a very sophisticated system. High, medium, and low is actually a large regulation behind that and how we prioritize.
And then we address the highest risk sites first. And you could, you know, just for an example, you know, a -- a -- a ground water plume that was going into a -- a -- an aquifer that was being used for municipal water or underneath a school would, obviously, have a higher priority than say a site where we were tested in the middle of the desert.
There's no rainfall, no movement of the plume, and no community down, you know, down gradient of that plume. So, we do treat sites differently based on the -- the physical characteristics of what we learn.
In terms of politics, look, the PFAS has been an issue for both administrations, Republicans and Democrats agree on the need that -- that the department has a -- has a clean-up responsibility. And both administrations have made it clear in no uncertain terms that we'll follow the law as expeditiously as possible, look for ways to improve, and talk to the American people. So...
Q: Thank you.
MR. HUGHES: All right, thank you. The last organization that submitted questions, although I believe installation-specific. Reeder Bay Maintenance Association, Mary, did you have a question that was not installation-specific for Mr. Kidd?
Q: Yes. And thank you. I'm not going to turn on my camera because -- anyway, I didn't expect to be on camera, sorry about that. And thank you for -- for doing this. It's been very informative. I just wanted to let you know that I was able to go on the new website and download the specific Alt Field OLF datasheet. So, it works. So, that's really great news. My non-specific question would be if there's wells outside of the original aquifer that -- where there's a plume or whatever sort of anywhere in the U.S., would the -- would the testing be expanded outside previously identified testing sites?
MR. KIDD: It -- so first of all, thanks for the affirmation on the website, I appreciate that. So -- so the Department of Defense only tests where we believe that we are the proximate source. So we are not going to test for PFAS contamination writ large.
And -- as I said earlier, this -- these -- these chemicals are -- are pretty widely used across America. So there's a number of -- of PFAS sites across the country that it cannot be traced to the Department of Defense. So if we are the known or -- or probable source, we will test until we completely define the scope of the -- the problem.
Also, I would just say for the other organizations that either have not started to test yet or will start to test later, we're a great source of expertise, both in terms of -- of -- of how to do this, as well as new and emerging technologies.
So -- so if -- if we've -- you know, we've gotten out there ahead of perhaps private industry or other public entities, we're happy to share that expertise with them.
Q: Thank you.
MR. HUGHES: All right. Sir, we're two minutes before the top of the hour. If you'd like, I -- I assume some of the organizations may have additional questions, but again, anything we can't address here, we can provide written responses.
So over to you to either tell me you'd like to take some more or closing comments.
MR. KIDD: Look, I've got nothing to do but -- today but go connect with Scott Faber on his big PFAS confab this afternoon. So whether I take questions now or later, it's all -- it's all going to be on PFAS. I'm happy to take another question if we have time.
MR. HUGHES: OK, sir, I think we can take another one. I know -- unless you'd rather save them for Scott. He did have several questions that he submitted and ...
MR. KIDD: Yeah, let's skip Scott, let's go to someone else. How about ...
MR. HUGHES: OK, I saw Andrea raised her hand.
Q: Yeah, hi. I just actually wanted to clarify a question, if that's OK, Mr. Kidd.
MR. HUGHES: Sure.
Q: You know, going back to the state drinking water standards, I want to make sure I understood that you said DOD would comply with state drinking water standards. Is that correct?
MR. KIDD: Yes, for drinking water.
Q: OK. So in the state of New Hampshire, we have established four MCLs for drinking water. We have homes surrounding the Pease Air Force Base with private drinking water wells that are above New Hampshire standards but below the EPA's 70 parts per trillion, and the DOD is refusing to act in those homes.
So I'm -- I'm confused -- and we have documentation in writing from DOD about that and I would really like some clarity on that because we're seeing a lot of states move forward with setting more protective standards to protect their residents and DOD not complying with them.
And so I'm assured to hear you say that you are going to comply with them today but that is not what we are seeing in New Hampshire. And this will be -- this isn't site specific, this will apply to many states, as people have raised -- in Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, many other places. So some clarity would be great. Thank you so much.
MR. KIDD: Yeah, so -- no, thanks. So why don't we -- you know, I can't -- I -- I -- I -- again, I can't go into the very specifics of those homes. I -- I mean, I think our -- our commitment, you know, in terms of drinking water is clear by -- by statute and -- and that's what we will follow.
So if you could, you know, send us some of the specifics, we'll -- we'll sort of track that down as to -- as to what's been done or what could be done, all right?
Q: Thank you.
MR. HUGHES: All right, sir. And Shaina Kasper submitted a question in chat. Shaina, if you'd like to come online and ask that question, you're -- you're free to do so. Otherwise, I can read it out.
Q: Sure. And I see that Hope Cristobal from Guam also has their hand raised. Yeah, I think I just wanted to ask about the follow up from this call. I know that this -- you know, thank you for having this call and for making sure that representatives from most impacted communities are here. And I recognize that this meeting is being recorded. Will this recording and this slide be made accessible to everyone?
MR. KIDD: So -- so yes -- so it's on the record and we'll make those accessible to others. There's -- there's many staffers and members of Congress that are busy right now marking up our bill who want to look at this over the weekend. So -- so -- so we will certainly do that.
Our intended follow-up is Peter's going to send an e-mail out, like a -- a survey, to sort of solicit -- you know, do you think this was an effective forum? I mean, you know, partially, this forum is a -- is a -- is a construct of the COVID world that we live in, but frankly, it's a good forum because we've got people from all over the country that we wouldn't otherwise have that, you -- you -- you know, if I was in a -- in a meeting room some place.
So, you know, we will send questions on forum, on content, on whether or not you found this valuable. So we're going to solicit your input because we want to be as responsive as we can, OK? And -- and -- so I -- I think I answered your two questions. Great, thanks.
All right, one question from Guam -- Guam and then we'll call it a wrap.
MR. HUGHES: OK, sir. Hope, over to you.
Q: Thank you very much for this little forum. Good morning. It's 2:00 in the morning here in Guam. My question is that I did not hear you speak about closed bases. The only industry in Guam is the military industry. Most all of the municipal wells are right over the Northern Guam Lens Aquifer and at closed base, we have three wells that were shut down for PFAS levels of over 200 -- one over 265. And one is being cleaned, it's the Well NAS-1, but we don't know what's happening to the filters. I saw -- I pass by it every day to get to work but the -- the stuff is still sitting out there, all this -- I -- I tried to talk to a guy, who was doing some managing of the cleanup there, and he said, "oh, this is all the -- the filters."
And so that has been put back on, that municipal well, but we don't hear much about PFAS and I don't get the sense that CERCLA reaches Guam at all. We have 19 Superfund sites out here but we don’t hear about any cleanups. Can you address at least the three closed municipal wells of the old NAS Agana Air Base?
MR. KIDD: Yeah, Hope, you know, I -- I can't address them on this call. That's -- that's a level of specificity that I -- that -- that I'm not able to address. I -- I mean, we do -- as a -- just generally speaking, the department does recognize our obligations for formerly used defense sites and BRAC sites and those are part of the mix when -- when -- when we investigate that.
I mean, you -- you also raised the -- the -- you know, just reiterated the challenge that -- that all of us face as to what do we do with the filters and the -- and the PFAS after it's been extracted. So I -- so it's not -- so that challenge is not unique to Massachusetts or Pennsylvania or Guam, and again, it's something that we in the department are -- are investing in.
But in terms of the specifics on Guam, if you could follow up with Peter, give us some specific questions and -- and we'll work presumably with the Navy on that to get you -- get you a response.
MR. HUGHES: Okay, thank you, sir. Any closing comments before we say goodbye to everyone?
MR. KIDD: No, I just -- you know, I'd like to thank everyone for your time. I'd like to thank everyone who -- who sent the questions in advance. I'd like to thank everyone, you know, for your -- your -- your continued activism and engagement. You know, we're all -- I'm a committed public servant and I want to be responsive to the great American people.
You know, America gives us three things -- the Department of Defense -- they give us money, they give us their sons and daughters, and they gave us -- they gave us this tremendously rich natural endowment of land and water and -- and air.
And we recognize our responsibility to preserve that -- all of those, not only for current generations but for future generations. And that's a -- that's a responsibility I take seriously and I look forward to continuing to engage on this topic and others going forward. Thank you.
MR. HUGHES: Thank you, sir. And thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for participating today. As Mr. Kidd said, I'll be sending an e-mail to each of you seeking your feedback and comments to ensure we do this productively going forward.
Thank you again and we look forward to our next opportunity to engage. Have a great day.
Q: Thank you.