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Tucson officials say they welcome DoD plan to investigate, mitigate PFAS contamination in water

PFAS are a group of widely-used, human-made chemicals that have been linked to health issues like cancer. Now, the Department of Defense is green-lighting investigations into some sites found to have contamination, including in Tucson.

The DoD designation is meant to streamline and fast-track contamination investigations and, eventually, mitigation plans at the sites listed — including the Tucson area’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Morris Air National Guard facility. 

For years, both facilities used a special firefighting foam that contained PFAS. Tucson Water Director John Kmiec says the chemicals have leached into groundwater. 

"As we’ve been outlining to the Department of Defense in particular, us and the state of Arizona, is the faster that you recognize that this is an issue that is emanating from these facilities, the faster you can start to clean it up," he said. 

Water officials closed more than two dozen wells around Tucson a few years ago after finding PFAS. Kmiec says the longer mitigation plans are put off, the more water contamination could occur. 

Kmiec says the city has long asked the federal government to prioritize sites in Tucson where PFAS have been found.

"Any time in the process with the Department of Defense that they’re keeping and allowing an accelerated schedule for investigation and eventual mitigation is a positive thing," he said.

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Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.