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Last week the Defense Department (DoD) reported that 250 more installations had tested positive for PFAS contamination, and now they admit that it will take 30 years at least to test each site for PFAS, identify how the chemical has spread and then complete the cleanup. The report also states that DoD does not plan to follow the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidance for treating groundwater that isn’t a source of drinking water – the agency will develop its own treatment guidelines.
Why This Matters: Many states are imposing limits well below the EPA’s 70 parts per trillion (ppt) guidance, but the DoD will only clean up drinking water that is above the EPA recommended level. And who knows at what level the contamination must be before they treat PFAS-contaminated groundwater. That untreated groundwater may be used for drinking water at some point in the future. And still, they need 30 years to take these actions – even though these so-called “forever” chemicals have been linked with cancer, hormone disruption, liver damage, and infertility. As Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan told The Hill, “The more we test, the more contamination we will find. Further inaction from the Department of Defense is unacceptable.”
DoD Not Treating The Problem As Urgent
The EPA has been under pressure to regulate PFAS contamination going forward and it announced that it will soon set legal limits for two PFAS chemicals in drinking water. Congress has increasingly pressured the Defense Department to clean up the PFAS contamination but they have not provided nearly the resources needed. “It’s troubling that we still can’t answer a basic question: How much PFAS is polluting the groundwater and drinking water at military installations? It’s also troubling we can’t answer an equally disturbing question: When will DOD clean up legacy PFAS at military installations?” said Scott Faber with the Environmental Working Group, which has for years been pressing both DoD and Congress to do more about PFAS contamination. In particular, DoD should be able to move more quickly than it is when the water on or near a military base has tested above the 70 parts per trillion (ppt) recommendation set by EPA. according to experts on the subject.
Alluding to the coronavirus crisis, Faber added, “Everyone in America is learning the importance of a healthy immune system this week, so why on earth should anyone stationed at a DOD installation be drinking water contaminated with a substance we know weakens the immune system?”
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