New DoD Study Shows that 250 More Military Installations Have PFAS Contamination

Source: Department of Defense

DoD’s PFAS Task Force issued a report in which it admitted that the number of military installations that could be contaminated with the “forever chemicals” is far greater than they previously thought — the number jumped from 401 to 651.  In order to protect service members and their families and the public, the Defense Department no longer uses the flame retardant AFFF (that contains PFAS or PFOA) in land-based testing and training — it only uses it for emergency response, and it is actively looking for a replacement but research efforts so far have failed to develop an equally effective fire suppressant.

Why This Matters:  DoD is continuing to document its failures and is not acting with enough urgency to address the toxic contamination at its installations, large and small across the country.  This is a huge jump in numbers.  But even more alarming is that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has so far confirmed PFAS in tap water or groundwater at 328 military sites. Until recently, servicemembers and their families and people who work on these installations plus the communities near many of them continued to drink contaminated water.  And, according to the EWG, many of the highest PFAS detections in the nation have been found on or near DOD installationsThe military should have done better because they knew for years of the toxicity of these chemicals — they should be doing better now.  This is no way to say “thank you for your service.”  

DOD Was Slow to Warn of PFAS Risks

According to EWG,

“DOD officials have understood the risks of AFFF since the early 1970s, when Navy and Air Force studies first showed the firefighting foam was toxic to fish; since the early 1980s, when the Air Force conducted its own animal studies on AFFF; and since the early 2000s, when the maker of PFOS, the main ingredient in AFFF, exited the market. In 2001, a DOD memo concluded that the main ingredient in AFFF was ‘persistent, bioaccumulating and toxic.’”

As a result of their FOIA request, EWG learned that DOD has PFAS detections in groundwater at 14 installations that were above 1 million parts per trillion (ppt), which greatly exceeds the 70 ppt drinking water advisory level recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.   The cost of cleanup of the PFAS mess continues to rise — with the new locations, DoD now estimates it will cost $3 billion just to complete the first two stages of the federal government’s five-stage environmental cleanup process, McClatchy reported.  Plus replacing AFFF will also be expensive due to the need to retrofit or replace military base firefighting trucks, aircraft hangars and foam systems on Navy ships, and also to remove the old foam and substitute its replacement.

To Go Deeper: Watch this Congressional testimony from a service member who lost his daughter to brain cancer he believes was related to PFAS contamination at an installation – it puts his service and that of so many others – in a new light.

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