By Treven Pyles
Posted on November 07th, 2019
According to the Department of Defense (DoD) data obtained by the environmental advocacy group Environmental Working Group (EWG) under the Freedom of Information Act, currently, 108 installations have drinking water contaminated by PFAS chemicals (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances).
Drinking water contamination from the aqueous firefighting foam (AFFF) at these sites was found to be at levels higher than the EPA's lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion. Also, the new data from DoD raises the total number of contaminated military installations from 207 to 297. The tests at the military sites were conducted between 2016 and this year by government contractors. EWG has charted and shared the top 100 military sites with the highest PFAS concentrations.
The contaminated sites include military installations where thousands of military families live and work.
In addition, at many bases, PFAS are suspected of contaminating the community water supply. Records show that PFAS have been detected outside the boundaries of military installations, in private wells or public water systems.
But the DoD cannot say how many civilian water sources they've polluted or who will pay for it because they have conducted only limited testing off base. Regulators and EWG warn that due to the slow-paced testing, many people are left drinking unsafe water.
As DoD investigates the problem, the number of military facilities contaminated with PFAS found in AFFF is expected to rise.
PFAS are a group of synthetic substances with the superior strength of withstanding extreme environments, which made them useful in products such as the firefighting foam or in waterproofing. However, they can end up being consumed by people through drinking water or eating other exposed organisms. The chance of human exposure is heightened because PFAS are persistent and move through the environment, traveling far from their source.
PFAS exposure is associated with a variety of health impacts, including cancer, and problems with the reproductive- and immune systems: