Fluorinated Chemicals Taint Water at Scores of Military Bases, Neighboring Communities: DOD Discloses Locations for First Time
The Defense Department has for the first time disclosed the locations of military installations where tap water or groundwater on or off base is contaminated with highly toxic fluorinated chemicals. But the list is incomplete, naming only locations where water is polluted above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) "safe" level for tap water, which is well above levels found safe by independent scientists and regulations in a growing number of states.
In a report to the House Armed Services Committee, the Pentagon listed 36 installations in 23 states and territories, as well as in five nations overseas, where tests found on-base drinking water contamination exceeding the EPA's lifetime health advisory for the fluorinated compounds PFOS and PFOA. In addition, the Pentagon identified 90 U.S. installations where PFOS or PFOA released on-base has contaminated groundwater. In many of these places, the contaminated water has migrated off-site, polluting nearby communities' tap water with fluorinated chemicals in concentrations above the EPA advisory level.
Maureen Sullivan, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, provided the list to the Armed Services Committee in March. It was first reported April 27 by The Military Times, which said the list includes 50 Air Force bases, 49 Navy or Marine Corps bases, 25 Army bases and two Defense Logistics Agency sites. Some of the bases on the list are now closed and have been converted to civilian uses.
The disclosure adds to the rapidly expanding number of known sites of fluorinated chemical contamination. Last month, the latest update of an interactive map from EWG and Northeastern University detailed fluorinated chemical contamination at 94 military or industrial sites in 22 states, and in public water systems serving 16.1 million Americans in 33 states and Puerto Rico. Those locations overlap with an undetermined number of sites on the Pentagon's list, which will be added to the map as more information becomes available.
The EPA's advisory level is 70 parts per trillion, or ppt, for the combined level of PFOS and PFOA, but it is not an enforceable legal limit. New Jersey recently set the nation's lowest legal limit for PFOA in tap water, 14 ppt, which is expected to take effect next year. In 2016, Philippe Grandjean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Richard Clapp of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell published research concluding that an approximate safe dose of PFOA and/or PFOS in drinking water is 1 ppt.
PFOS and PFOA are the two most notorious members of the chemical family of thousands of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS. They have been linked to several types of cancer, thyroid disease, weakened childhood immunity and other health problems. They were phased out under pressure from the EPA after revelations that their manufacturers covered up evidence of their environmental and health hazards, and they are now banned in the U.S.
PFOS and PFOA were used for decades in hundreds of consumer products such as 3M's Scotchgard and DuPont's Teflon, but also in the firefighting foam used at military and civilian airports. The military is switching out firefighting foam with PFOS or PFOA, but is substituting foam that contains other fluorinated compounds whose chemical structures are very similar and that may be just as hazardous.
The Military Times reported that Sullivan told the committee the Defense Department had moved quickly to shut down wells, install water filters and/or provide bottled water at the 24 contaminated bases where the military is the drinking water supplier. But because the EPA advisory level is not an enforceable standard, fixing the problem is moving slower at the 12 contaminated bases where a local utility or private contractor supplies the water.
Sullivan told The Military Times that addressing the groundwater contamination will take even longer and cost billions of dollars, but the presentation to the committee said that process can't proceed until the EPA sets an enforceable cleanup standard.
Fluorinated Chemical Pollution Crisis Spreads https://t.co/WlF0hYSIRC @ewg @naturallysavvy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1524088210.0
By John R. Platt
The straw-headed bulbul doesn't look like much.
It's less than a foot in length, with subdued brown-and-gold plumage, a black beak and beady red eyes. If you saw one sitting on a branch in front of you, you might not give it a second glance.
Cages line the Malang bird and animal market on Java in 2016. Andrea Kirkby / CC BY-SA 2.0
A kingfisher, looking a little worse for wear, in the Malang bird and animal market in 2016. Andrea Kirkby / CC BY-SA 2.0
- What Does the World Need to Understand About Wildlife Trafficking ... ›
- Brazilian Amazon Has Lost Millions of Wild Animals to Criminal ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Julián García Walther
One morning in January, I found myself 30 feet up a tall metal pole, carrying 66 pounds of aluminum antennas and thick weatherproofed cabling. From this vantage point, I could clearly see the entire Punta Banda Estuary in northwestern Mexico. As I looked through my binoculars, I observed the estuary's sandy bar and extensive mudflats packed with thousands of migratory shorebirds frenetically pecking the mud for food.
There are currently few Motus stations in Mexico, leading to a large information gap. Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND
Red knots and many other shorebirds travel thousands of miles from breeding grounds in the Arctic (left) to nonbreeding grounds in Latin America (right). Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND
Motus stations require a high vantage point that overlooks estuaries. Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND
Any bird with a transmitter will be picked up if it flies within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of a Motus station. Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND<h2>Tagging Birds</h2><p>The stations alone can't detect these animals. The final step, which will happen in the coming months, is to catch birds and tag them. To do this, our team will set up a soft, spring-loaded net called a whoosh net in sandy areas where the red knots rest above the high-tide line. When birds walk past the net, the crew leader will release the trigger, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwMiA2iqVc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">safely trapping the birds with the net</a>.</p>
WhooshNetCapture.MTS<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6440038cdc58961906f5fa164b457688"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vwMiA2iqVc0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The world's oceans and coastal ecosystems can store remarkable amounts of carbon dioxide. But if they're damaged, they can also release massive amounts of emissions back into the atmosphere.
By Kimberly Nicole Pope
During this year's Davos Agenda Week, leaders from the private and public sectors highlighted the urgent need to halt and reverse nature loss. Deliberate action on the interlinked climate and ecological crises to achieve a net-zero, nature-positive economy is paramount. At the same time, these leaders also presented a message of hope: that investing in nature holds the key to ensuring economic and social prosperity and resilience.
- 16 Essential Books About Environmental Justice, Racism and ... ›
- 10 Best Books On Climate Change, According to Activists - EcoWatch ›
- 14 Inspiring New Environmental Books to Read During the ... ›
By Brett Wilkins
While some mainstream environmental organizations welcomed Tuesday's introduction of the CLEAN Future Act in the House of Representatives, progressive green groups warned that the bill falls far short of what's needed to meaningfully tackle the climate crisis—an existential threat they say calls for bolder action like the Green New Deal.
<div id="25965" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6116a1c2b1b913ad51c3ea576f2e196c"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1366827205427425289" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">BREAKING: Rep @FrankPallone just released his CLEAN Future Act — which he claims to be an ambitious bill to combat… https://t.co/M7nR0es196</div> — Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action))<a href="https://twitter.com/foe_us/statuses/1366827205427425289">1614711974.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="189f0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa31bacec80d88b49730e8591de5d26d"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1366863402912657416" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The CLEAN Future Act "fails to grasp the fundamental truth of fighting climate change: We must stop extracting and… https://t.co/yREn6Qx9tn</div> — Food & Water Watch (@Food & Water Watch)<a href="https://twitter.com/foodandwater/statuses/1366863402912657416">1614720605.0</a></blockquote></div>
- Biden Plans to Fight Climate Change in a New Way - EcoWatch ›
- Bipartisan Climate Bill Highlights Forest Restoration, Conservation ... ›