Rep. Ron Kind asks FAA to allow PFAS-free firefighting foam

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKBT) — U.S. Rep. Ron Kind has joined more than 50 other federal representatives in sending a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration to allow airports like the one in La Crosse to use firefighting foam free of the forever chemicals known as PFAS.

The chemicals, which do not break down naturally, are man-made and can cause cancer and birth defects.

The letter from congressional representatives instructs the FAA to provide specific actions that it will take to complete the switch to PFAS-free foam and allow all U.S. civilian airports to use flourine-free foam.

“Contamination from PFAS is a serious issue for many communities across Wisconsin, including right here in the Third District,” said Kind in a statement. “We need to do all we can to address this growing public health threat, and to that end it’s critical that the FAA works to allow our airports to use PFAS-free foams.”

La Crosse Regional Airport has historically used Airport Fluorinated Firefighting Foam, which includes PFAS. The city of La Crosse, which has taken responsibility for some of the contamination, has shut down two wells due to PFAS contamination. More than 1,000 town of Campbell residents are unable to use their private wells due to potential contamination.

In March, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued an interim area-wide drinking water advisory for the town after hundreds of wells tested positive for PFAS. Elected officials in both La Crosse and the town of Campbell have asked the FAA to allow the airport to stop using foam containing PFAS.

Among them is town of Campbell Supervisor Lee Donahue.

“We welcome the most critical strategic move the FAA can take, by fully committing to cease all use of fluorinated foam at civilian airports according to the Congressionally mandated NDAA of 2018. AFFF also known as Airport Fluorinated Firefighting Foam is an historic toxin which has contaminated hundreds of municipalities like the Town of Campbell, WI (population 4,319). F3 (known as non-fluorine foams) are widely available and have been scientifically proven to be equally effective as evidenced at International airports since 2012. F3 foams are biodegradable and are not associated with the toxic effects of PFAS. As long as the FAA mandates municipal airports must use AFFF with known toxic “forever” substances our drinking water and neighboring communities will continue to be contaminated with no end in sight,” said Donahue in a statement.

While Congress passed a bill in 2018 telling the FAA it could no longer require civilian airports to use firefighting foams with PFAS as of Oct. 4, 2021, the FAA has not authorized the use of any PFAS-free foams.

The FAA administrator told Congress Nov. 4 he’s optimistic airports can use PFAS-free foams in January 2023. Donahue told News 8 Now earlier this month she was shocked that the FAA expects them to wait more than a year.

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