The Department of Defense reports elevated levels of toxic perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water near several of its bases, according to new data released by the department.
Tests of drinking water near bases in Washington state, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan have revealed levels of chemicals well above a health threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
PFAS is the name of a group of thousands of chemicals, some of which have been linked to health problems such as kidney and testicular cancer and liver damage.
The substances have been used in products such as fire-fighting foam, which is used by the military. For this reason, PFAS can be found near military bases and can contaminate nearby water.
They are often called “eternal chemicals” because they build up in the human body and the environment instead of breaking down over time.
Although PFAS have long been known to seep into groundwater near military installations, the new data provides official insight into their impact on nearby drinking water.
Although the EPA has stated that levels of two types of PFAS called PFOA and PFOS should not exceed 70 parts per trillion (ppt) – and states have requested even lower levels – results for some of the bases exceed by far that.
An October assessment found that a sample of drinking water near Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state contained 4,720 ppm of PFOS. In September, a sample containing 208 ppt of PFOA was detected.
Meanwhile, a drinking water sample near Washington State’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord Yakima training center was found to contain 800 ppt of PFOS in January. A separate sample from January at the base was found to contain 130 ppt of PFOA.
A sample from the base near Willow Grove in Pennsylvania contained 864 ppt of PFOS in October.
Meanwhile, an August sample from Naval Air Station Florida Whiting Field was found to contain 206 ppt of PFOA in August. A sample from December contained 130 ppt of PFOS.
A November sample from Michigan’s Camp Grayling Army airfield was found to contain 119 ppt of PFOA.
“These levels are extremely high,” Jared Hayes, policy analyst at the Environmental Working Group, said in a statement.
“For too long, service members and people living in communities near military installations have been the victims of Pentagon inaction,” Hayes added.
A Department of Defense (DOD) spokesperson did not immediately respond to request for comment. but the findings note that where PFOA or PFOS levels exceeded the EPA advisory as a result of department activities, the DOD “immediately took action to address drinking water exposure “.
The department was required to disclose drinking water testing under the National Defense Fiscal Year 2022 Authorization Act.