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New Mexico wants military to cover costs of PFAS pollution due to new EPA rule

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(The Center Square) – The New Mexico Attorney General amended the state’s lawsuit against the United States regarding per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances contamination present around military communities statewide, amending lawsuit to capitalize on a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that took effect on Monday, July 8. New Mexico can now also sue for the costs of clean-up actions and monetary damages for natural resources.

“For over five years, the U.S. Department of Defense failed to take accountability for PFAS clean-up in New Mexico – leaving New Mexicans with a legacy of toxic PFAS pollution to shoulder,” New Mexico Environment Department Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a statement. “Thanks to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s science-driven leadership on PFAS, New Mexico will now hold the U.S. Department of Defense accountable for the monetary costs of clean up and damages to our environment.”

The new EPA rule designated two common PFAS chemicals — perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic — as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. The move ensures that polluters pay to clean up their contamination.

“The rule protects people from the health risks posed by ‘forever chemicals’ in communities, as exposure has been linked to cancers, impacts to the liver and heart, and immune and developmental damage to infants and children,” the release said.

The amended lawsuit from New Mexico wants the federal government to cover all past and future clean-up costs, plus natural resource damages at Cannon Air Force Base, Holloman Air Force Base, Kirtland Air Force Base, White Sands Missile Range, and Fort Wingate.

“New Mexico’s original complaint was focused solely on the damage caused by Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases, but the amended complaint expands the lawsuit to include additional DOD sites in New Mexico,” the release said.

New Mexico is the first state in the country to capitalize on the new EPA rule that lets states hold the DOD accountable to pay for the cleanup of areas impacted by PFAS. These areas include public and private water sources on and near federal military bases.

PFAS is a term for a group of man-made chemicals used in many different products. These include food packaging, nonstick pans, and aqueous film-forming foams, which help extinguish fuel-based fires.

“Growing concerns about PFAS contamination are driven by evidence that exposure to some PFAS chemicals can lead to adverse health effects such as increased cholesterol, reproductive problems, and cancer,” a release said.

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