June 23, 2021

Governor petitions EPA to list PFAS as hazardous waste

Cannon AFB courtesy photo: VIRIN: 101010-F-YG475-003.JPG

PFAS chemicals were used in firefighting foam in military bases across the country, including at Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases, until 2016.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, to list per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, as hazardous waste under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

“PFAS chemicals present an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment,” she wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan. This letter was included with the petition and is dated June 23.

“In the absence of a federal framework, states continue to create a patchwork of regulatory standards for PFAS across the U.S. to address these hazardous chemicals. This leads to inequity in public health and environmental protections,” Lujan Grisham said in a press release. “This petition seeks swift EPA action to create a federal framework that will equally protect all communities across the U.S. by declaring PFAS what it is – a hazardous waste under federal law.”

In the petition, the governor told the EPA that New Mexico has PFAS contamination due to the use of a fire suppression foam that contained PFAS during training exercises at Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases.

Related: Concerned leaders hopeful Biden administration will address PFAS contamination

“These actions have directly contaminated or threatened dairy farms surrounding Cannon Air Force Base, areas on the bases themselves, and Lake Holloman, thereby causing substantial harm to human health, New Mexico’s agricultural industries, recreation, and tourism,” according to the petition.

By listing PFAS as hazardous waste, it will provide the ability to regulate them from the time they are produced until disposal.

In addition to being used in firefighting foam, PFAS can be found in non-stick cookware, food packaging, cleaning products, carpet treatments and other products.

Lujan Grisham wrote in the petition that two types of PFAS have been found in Lake Holloman at levels well above the EPA’s health advisory levels. Lake Holloman, the petition highlights, provides habitat for more than 73 species of wetland birds and is the most important area in the Tularosa Basin for the snowy plover and the Wilson’s phalarope.

The New Mexico Environment Department has instructed the public to avoid coming into contact with the water in Lake Holloman. The petition states that Lake Holloman was used by community members for boating, camping and bird watching.

Related: Groundwater contamination devastates a New Mexico dairy – and threatens public health

In addition to possible impacts on wildlife and outdoor recreation, the petition highlights the economic impacts PFAS contamination has had on agriculture producers in New Mexico, including a dairy farmer in Curry County who lost millions of dollars in revenue when the milk his cows produced tested high for PFAS.