PFAS Found On Hundreds of Military Installations, With Numbers Likely To Rise

A sailor using cancer-causing PFAS chemicals   Photo: Navy Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate, Military Times

As we wrote last week and over the weekend, the problem of toxic fluorinated chemicals or “PFAS” is pervasive nationwide — and of the more than 1350 sites that have been identified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) roughly half of them are on military installations, and the numbers are expected to rise once testing at Navy and Air Force installations is completed Just two months ago, EWG found based on their testing that an additional 90 Army bases had recently been found to have PFAS contamination, raising the total number from 18 to 108, on top of the more than 400 other installations across the Defense Department that had previously been identified as having PFAS contamination.

Why This Matters:  Service members and their families did not sign up for this kind of preventable hazard when they joined the military — fighting in conflict is, of course, life-threatening, but simply living on a military installation should not be.  And the fact that President Trump has repeatedly threatened to veto any legislation that comes to his desk that requires the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate PFAS shows his callous disregard for the safety and well-being of our service members and their families.  

Where Is the Worst PFAS contamination

PFAS contamination is a HUGE and expensive mess — the Pentagon is looking at a cost of at least $2 billion — and likely more ― to clean up groundwater and drinking wells contaminated by years of seepage from the military’s firefighting foams and has already paid several hundred million dollars to install filters and provide bottled water on affected installations, according to Military Times.

  • 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.  Here is the complete list.

Camp Lejeune’s Toxic Water Is a Precursor of PFAS

Camp Lejeune in North Carolina has a long history since WWII as the home of the Marine Corps Second Expeditionary Force, and also the place where, from August 1953 through the end of December 1987, people were potentially exposed to drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other harmful chemicals.  Thousands of military service members and their families have suffered from exposure and many have died as a result.  A recent story in Healthline explains the problem through the eyes of the son of a servicemember who now has terminal cancer because of the water he drank as an infant at Camp Lejeune.  He is “lucky” because of a special law Congress passed a law in 2012 to cover the out of pocket costs of LeJeune families, but his employer’s health coverage has been expensive because the government has not picked up the full cost of his medical treatments.  His father is angry. “People like my son and other dependent children of those of us who served our country, the families who lived aboard contaminated bases, are left twisting in the wind by our government,” he said. “It’s a tragedy.”

To Go Deeper:  The entire Healthline.com story is worthy of your time and will give you a new appreciation for the sacrifices made by our military and their families.

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