Spc. Woo Jung, Company A, 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, shows the difference of water quality after being processed utilizing the Tactical Water Purification System during a training exercise on Hunter Army Airfield Jan. 27. (U.S. Army/Spc. Scott Lindblom)

Congress has reached a deal on a spending bill that would require the military to stop using firefighting foam containing toxic chemicals linked to cancer, but would abandon efforts to place stronger regulations on the chemicals.

The bill, called the National Defense Authorization Act, has been the focus of intense negotiations for months. House Democrats saw it as their best chance to force President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency to increase its oversight of a class of chemicals, called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — commonly known as PFAS — that have contaminated drinking water sources across the country.

Senate Republicans resisted these measures, wary of forcing chemical companies and the Defense Department to undertake extensive cleanups.

But when hopes of a compromise faded last week, Democrats were left with little choice but to agree to significantly weaker provisions or kill the entire defense spending bill.

The bill that emerged out of a joint House-Senate committee this week had been stripped of measures that would require the EPA to designate the chemicals as "hazardous" and set a nationwide safety standard for PFAS in drinking water.

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Staff Sgt. Levi Eck, 193rd Special Operations Wing and Sgt. Stephen Brown, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Specialist with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 28th Infantry Division, both with the Pennsylvania National Guard work on the tank of a M149 water trailer. They are also known as 'water buffaloes'. The Pennsylvania National Guard members assisted residents of U.S. Army Carlisle Barracks by supplying potable water Aug. 5 during the installation's water ban. (U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Keeler)

A multimillion dollar federal study on toxic chemicals in drinking water across the country is facing delays due to a dispute within the Trump administration, according to several sources involved in the study or who have knowledge of the process.

The dispute has implications for more than half a dozen communities where drinking water has been heavily contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Concerns about the chemicals have exploded nationally in recent years, following decades of PFAS use in products including non-stick cookware, water-resistant clothing, food packaging, carpets and military firefighting foams. Scientists say significant delays could limit the effectiveness of the study.

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Months after suing the federal government over the discharge of toxic, cancer-causing chemicals that have tainted New Mexico's groundwater, Attorney General Hector Balderas now says he considers the lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force a public "corruption case."

"It's my position, looking at the entire set of facts, that this is not just an environmental battle for environmental cleanup," Balderas said during a phone interview Friday. "This is absolutely a corruption case, where a powerful federal entity needs to account to what have been very committed and loyal citizens in New Mexico.

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Gross. (U.S. Army/Spc. Scott Lindblom)

WASHINGTON — The number of known military installations with water sources contaminated by cancer-linked firefighting foam is likely to rise, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

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A new U.S. Department of Defense policy appears to disregard safety recommendations drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency for how to handle firefighting chemical contamination in groundwater, drawing criticism from lawmakers and activists who are calling for strict regulation.

Specifically, a DOD memo distributed across military leadership in October sets a "screening level" for the chemicals that is 10 times higher than what the EPA recommended last spring. Such screening levels are used as thresholds to determine whether the military must further investigate and potentially clean a chemical contamination, or whether it can simply disregard it and take no further action.

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A plasma reactor is demonstrated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to degrade and destroy perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid, better known as PFOS and PFOA, in sample groundwater on Sept. 25, 2019 (Clarkson University)

The Air Force just tested a cutting-edge water-cleaning technology that sounds like something straight out of a superhero origin story: a plasma reactor that doesn't remove chemical contaminants from the water supply, it totally destroys them, leaving the water safe to drink without generating toxic waste, the service says.

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