Quantcast
Health
An off-base public water system near the Fairchild AFB in Washington state was taken off line and residents were given bottled water after testing showed high levels of DFAs. Joe Mabel / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

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.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Adventure
Muir Woods, which costs $10 for entry, will have free entry on Sept. 22. m01229 / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Visit Any National Park for Free This Saturday to Celebrate 25th National Public Lands Day

If you're stuck for plans this weekend, we suggest escaping your city or town for the great outdoors.

This Saturday marks the 25th National Public Lands Day, organized by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
A glacier flows towards East Antarctica. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / CC BY 2.0

Temperatures Possible This Century Could Melt Parts of East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Raise Sea Levels 10+ Feet

A section of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet that contains three to four meters (approximately 10 to 13 feet) of potential sea level rise could melt if temperatures rise to just two degrees above pre-industrial levels, a study published in Nature Wednesday found.

Researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Queensland, and other institutions in New Zealand, Japan and Spain looked at marine sediments to assess the behavior of the Wilkes Subglacial Basin during warmer periods of the Pleistocene and found evidence of melting when temperatures in Antarctica were at least two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for periods of 2,500 years or more.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Oil well in North Dakota. Tim Evanson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pipeline Leaks 63,840 Gallons of Produced Water in North Dakota

A pipeline released 63,840 gallons (1,520 barrels) of produced water that contaminated rangeland in Dunn County, North Dakota, the Bismarck Tribune reported, citing officials with the North Dakota Department of Health.

Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas extraction, and can contain drilling chemicals if fracking was used.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights
Residents stand in a long queue to fill water containers on May 27 in Shimla, India. Deepak Sansta / Hindustan Times / Getty Images

World Peace Requires Access to Safe Water

International Peace Day is Sept. 21. Mekela Panditharatne, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, submitted the following op-ed to EcoWatch in commemoration.

In drought-ravaged East Africa, the cracks in the plains echo the fault lines splitting tribes.

Across the globe, the devastation of deadly brawls is being exacerbated by tensions over access to water. Water crises, often worsened by governance failures, can portend warning signs for instability and conflict. This year, the World Resources Institute cautioned that water stress is growing globally, "with 33 countries projected to face extremely high stress in 2040." The effects of such water stress span the gamut from civil unrest to open warfare.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food

How Your Personality Type Could Influence Your Food Choices

By Melissa Kravitz

"You are what you eat" may be one of the oldest sayings ever to be repeated around the dinner table, but can you also eat what you are?

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
A child rides his bicycle in an area affected by the Hurricane Maria passing in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on Oct. 5, 2017. RICARDO ARDUENGO / AFP / Getty Images

Hurricane Maria's Legacy: One Year Later

As Puerto Rico marked one year since Hurricane Maria made landfall yesterday, the Miami Herald this week ran extensive reports in English and Spanish on the island's continuing recovery.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Science
A foldable, biodegradable battery based on paper and bacteria. Seokheun Choi / Binghamton University, CC BY-ND

Could Paper Power the Next Generation of Devices?

By Seokheun Choi

It seems like every few months there's a new cellphone, laptop or tablet that is so exciting people line up around the block to get their hands on it. While the perpetual introduction of new, slightly more advanced electronics has made businesses like Apple hugely successful, the short shelf life of these electronics is bad for the environment.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
Blue Point Brewing Company

Long Island Brewer Launches 'Good Reef Ale' to Help Restore New York’s Oyster Reefs

Between the 1600s and the early 20th century, European settlers in New York City ate their way through 220,000 acres of oyster reefs covering 350 square miles, The Washington Post reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!