Ind. governor announces program to rid FDs of hazardous firefighting foam

About 200 fire departments out of over 800 have already joined the effort and ID'd more than 50,000 gallons of PFAS-containing foam that will be disposed of


Josie Clark
Greensburg Daily News, Ind.

GREENSBURG, Ind. — Governor Eric J. Holcomb joined local leaders, elected officials and firefighters to announce the next steps in a new program to collect and dispose of hazardous firefighting foam.

The foam is common in fire departments and directly threatens the health of the firefighters in those departments, he said.

"To see so many people that have been putting the safety of those who keep us safe is just inspiring to us all," Holcomb said. "It truly does remind me how blessed we are to live in a state like Indiana in a community like Greensburg. Indiana truly is a leader on this front in the nation. Only a handful of states have taken on this initiative and made it a priority."

Holcomb's administration has created a voluntary program to collect firefighting foam containing toxic PFAS chemicals from state fire agencies.

A survey is being conducted to determine how much of the hazardous foam is in the state as Indiana Department of Environmental Management works to safely remove it at no cost to the fire station.

"We are fighting to make this inherently dangerous job a little safer by taking these aggressive steps," Mayor Joshua Marsh said. "It may not be the building or the vehicle fire that causes death, but it could be the tools that you're using."

There are more than 800 fire departments in the state of Indiana, according to Indiana State Fire Marshall Joel Thacker.

About 200 fire departments have already signed on to participate and have identified about 50,000 gallons of the foam that will be safely disposed of.

Fire departments across the state can register for this free program by visiting the Indiana Department of Homeland Security website at DHS.IN.GOV. The program is a partnership between IDHS and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).

The Indiana Class-B Foam Collection Initiative makes Indiana one of only a handful of states in the country to create a PFAS foam disposal program.

This program allows the state to offer a free pickup and environmentally friendly disposal service, which saves fire departments thousands of dollars in disposal costs while protecting Hoosiers and the Indiana environment. The initiative was launched by Gov. Holcomb, State Fire Marshal Thacker and IDEM Commissioner Brian Rockensuess on Wednesday during a kickoff event with fire departments statewide hosted at the Greensburg Fire Department in Decatur County.

PFAS are widely used, long-lasting chemicals, components of which break down very slowly over time. Because of their widespread use and their persistence in the environment, many PFAS are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world and are present at low levels in a variety of food products and in the environment.

Extended exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to four of the top eight types of cancer most common to firefighters: testicular, prostate, mesothelioma, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"It's the hidden danger that continues to impact our men and women in the firefighting community every day," Thacker said."We're talking about overall health risks above and beyond the daily sacrifice that our first responders make. PFAS is a dangerous chemical compound that's found in virtually every item we encounter on a daily basis... PFAS contaminants have been linked to four of the top eight cancers most common among firefighters."

In 2020, Indiana law prohibited the use of PFAS foam for any training purposes.

"IDEM is proud to work with our state partners to protect the hardworking men and women who risk their lives for us," Rockensuess said. "PFAS foam has the potential to also negatively affect our groundwater and removing it from our communities will make the environment safer for all Hoosiers."

A state vendor will begin collections in May by contacting departments that have completed the Foam Collection Initiative Survey to arrange a pickup. IDEM will monitor the disposal program.

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(c)2022 the Greensburg Daily News (Greensburg, Ind.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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