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Cleaning up a sea of fire retardant foam in which PFAS is found. Photo: Ken Wright, Air Force
Yesterday, the Department of Defense Task Force looking into the problem, found that the drinking water at an additional 90 current and former Army and Army National Guard installations nationwide is contaminated with the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which obtained the information via a Freedom of Information Act request. The Army told Military Times that “despite the confirmed presence of PFAS in the drinking water, no one is taking in unsafe levels of the chemicals, because their filtered water complies with Environmental Protection Agency guidelines,” but EWG argues that “even at low levels PFAS can increase risks of serious health problems.”
Why This Matters: As President Trump raids DoD’s coffers to pay for the useless border wall, military families continue to be an afterthought. And Congress can’t find it in its heart or budget to pay to clean up these installations. The people who are keeping us safe and risking their lives to defend us and their families should not be exposed to toxins this way. They deserve better. But it gets worse. Even if the funding to clean up the PFAS mess on military bases makes it through Congress, the President has threatened to veto the bill if it includes a ban on the use of the chemicals by the military and requires that EPA regulate them as toxic substances. Really. According to the EWG, low doses of PFAS chemicals have been linked to cancer, harm to the reproductive and immune systems, thyroid disease and other health problems.
What’s the Objection?
The White House objects to the requirement in the annual DoD funding bill that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulate PFAS levels for drinking water, and to a provision allowing that Superfund cleanup funds can be used for cleaning up PFAS contamination.
How Big Is the Problem?
This new information means that the number of Army installations with known PFAS contamination of drinking water or groundwater increases from 18 to 108, and the total number of military installations with known contamination from 207 to 297.
Out of the 90 additional sites, the worst contamination was detected at the Joint Forces Training Base, in California, where the combined level of seven different PFAS chemicals was an extraordinary 790 parts per trillion, or ppt, in tests conducted in 2017.
Other locations with notably high levels of total PFAS include the Sierra Army Depot, in California; Picatinny Arsenal, in New Jersey; Camp Ethan Allen, in Vermont; and Ford Drum, in New York.
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