Water Contamination Continues on Military Bases

 In Military

In 2018, we wrote about the water contamination at 126 military bases. The DoD is working to clean it up, and has begun mitigation on those sites with the installation of filtration systems.  The total number of military sites known to have contamination has risen to 297, according to the Environmental Working Group.

“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.” EWG 9-11-2019

In a separate article from September 25, 2019, the EWG noted:

“Among the utilities with high maximum detections of PFAS in drinking water sources was the system for the southern part of Camp Pendleton, the sprawling Marine Corps base in San Diego County, where a combined concentration of 820 ppt for seven different PFAs chemicals was measured in a single well in 2017.”

The affected well at Camp Pendleton was shut down in 2017.  The cost of mitigating the contamination is high. Democrats wanted to include fixing the contamination of homes in other communities outside of military bases in the NDAA, but the President said he would veto such a move. Most cities have their own testing systems in place, but private wells are the concern. The EPA advisory on such chemicals is only an advisory and is not enforceable.

PFAs, or  perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are the “forever chemicals” from the fire fighting foam AFFF. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down when introduced into the environment. They cause cancer, reproductive and immune system harm, liver and thyroid disease, and many other medical issues – and the CDC says many Americans probably have them in their bodies already from other sources: carpets, clothing, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn packaging and cookware.

The Navy is testing water near Naval Air Bases such as Fort Worth, according to American Military News to make sure their neighbors aren’t drinking contaminated water. If chemicals above the safe limits are found, the Navy plans to give the people bottled water until they can find a new water source.

On September 29, AMN reported,

 “The Navy hasn’t yet tested the groundwater on-site, Kissam said, but wants to be “proactive” and investigate the possible impact of AFFF on drinking water serving nearby homes. There’s a small section of homes that are located down-gradient from the base within a 1-mile radius that could be susceptible to contamination, Kissam said.

Anyone who lives in that designated area who relies on a private drinking well can request the Navy test its drinking water for the presence of damaging perfluoroalkyl substances. The Navy has conducted testing at five homes so far, Kissam said, and results are pending…”

The military is making an effort to clean up the mess, but it’s a long process. The manufacturer of the AFFF chemicals has reportedly phased them out of production. But again, they are “forever chemicals.”


Featured photo: Pfc. Kingsford Asare, a Water Purification Specialist, 289th Composite Supply Company, 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, shows an up-close comparison of water before and after purification at the Tactical Water Purification System site during Pegasus Forge IV on Fort Hood, TX, January 25, 2019. “Our job is to make sure Soldiers drink, not just water, but quality water,” said Asare. “If water is contaminated they could get infected and sick, which means the mission cannot be accomplished.” The purified water will be used for drinking, cooking food, showering and laundry. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Calab Franklin)


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