According to the Pentagon, at least 126 military installations contain harmful levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Concentrated levels of these man-made chemicals are contained in the foam used to put out fires. The perfluorinated compounds, which are linked to cancer and stunted child development, were found at unacceptable levels in drinking water at or around the military bases.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally issued health advisories regarding the acceptable levels of PFOS and PFOA levels in water. According to the EPA, exposure can result in fetal or infant developmental effects, cancer, liver damage, immune effects, thyroid effects, and other problems. In 2016, the EPA established a lower limit for the acceptable levels of PFOS and PFOAs at 70 parts per trillion, a level still higher than those imposed in states like New Jersey and Vermont.
To begin complying with this new guideline, the Department of Defense (DoD) tested the water on its bases across the country, including Pennsylvania. The results of the testing revealed that the drinking water or groundwater sources for 25 army bases, 50 air force bases, 49 navy or marine corps bases, and two Defense Logistics Agency sites was contaminated with higher than acceptable levels of perfluorinated chemicals. Moreover, 61 percent of the 2,668 onsite and offsite nearby groundwater wells exceeded the EPA-recommended levels.
The deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment, safety, and occupational health said that the DoD plans to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct a study on the long-term effects of exposure. The DoD has already cut off human exposure to the contaminated water at locations where it has control over the water supply. At those locations, the department relocated the water supply to another well, installed water filters, or provided bottled water for personnel.
However, the remaining locations have water provided either by a utility company or a private vendor. Because the EPA guidelines are not legally enforceable regulations, each municipality must decide whether it will bring its water into compliance.
So far, the DoD has spent $200 million testing its water supplies and providing alternative water to personnel. It will take years to fully address the contamination, and environmental cleanup will be performed at more than 2,900 facilities in order of risk level.
If you were exposed to toxic chemicals through your drinking water or groundwater, contact a Philadelphia water contamination lawyer at Williams Cedar. We proudly represent clients nationwide from our offices in Haddonfield, New Jersey and Philadelphia. For a free, confidential consultation, contact us online or call us at 215-557-0099.