The U.S. military faces increasing numbers of locations where PFAS chemicals have been either spilled or are suspectedof having been discharged, according to Pentagon officials. Camp Lejeune cancer injury lawyer Michael Ehline, Esq. (an inactive U.S. Marine and patriot) says it was unfair only to allow East Coast Marines to sue for these claims, and he is helping vets push for legislation to open on Camp Pendleton, where he attended School of Infantry (SOI) back in 1989. His father, USMC Sergeant Paul Ehline, died of Agent Orange.
Because of this, attorney Ehline, also a motorcycle rider, started the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride to raise awareness to fight service-related cancer and PTSD. Michael says the government did not reveal the number of sites under investigation or their locations.
The Department of Defense had previously reported 401 sites across both active and former military bases where the compounds, known as PFOS and PFOA or perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid, have either been released or are suspected of having been discharged, affecting the drinking water and environment of the affected area
PFAS exposure can have serious impacts on the environment and human health, and the Department of Defense and its health advisors are taking steps to identify and clean up any contaminated sites.
The Increasing Number of Sites with PFAS Chemicals
Robert McMahon, who is the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, recently announced that the Department of Defense had uncovered more locations contaminated with harmful levels of chemicals as part of their ongoing efforts to identify such sites.
According to him, the majority of these newly discovered sites are National Guard facilities. He stated that the Department of Defense would disclose these sites’ names and locations once the number of contaminated sites has been verified. The discovery of these additional contaminated sites highlights the importance of the Department of Defense’s ongoing efforts to identify and address any potential threats to public health caused by PFAS contamination and other environmental hazards.
PFAS Contamination – Why is it Increasing so Rapidly
PFOS and PFOA are widely used in firefighting foams to combat fires in aircraft and ships and can also be found in everyday household items such as food packaging, stain repellents, non-stick cookware, food wrappers and more. However, exposure to these forever chemicals has been linked to various birth defects and cancer types.
In response to these concerns, the Defense Secretary of the United States Government, Mark Esper, established a task force in July to assess the extent of contamination and PFAS pollution caused by these chemicals, which belong to a group called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
The task force’s mandate includes determining the potential health risks posed to military personnel and their families, as well as finding alternatives to PFAS that are free from firefighting foams.
A Look at the Findings by the Environmental Working Group
According to a recent analysis by the Environmental Working Group, two-thirds of the Defense Department sites in the United States had PFAS in groundwater. The EWG analyzed data from the DOD and found that over two hundred and fifty military sites had unsafe levels of PFOA or PFOS, two of the most notorious PFAS, in their groundwater, based on the updated advisories set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
69 of these sites had previously reported hazardous levels of these two chemicals in their drinking water. The high levels of PFAS contamination highlight the urgent need for further action to address PFAS in order to protect public health.
What Else Did the EWG Find?
According to the EWG analysis, over one hundred Pentagon sites have groundwater levels of PFBS, which is another type of PFAS, far exceeding the recently announced lifetime health advisory by the EPA.
Recently, the EPA updated its health advisories for PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, and another PFAS called GenX. It also set lifetime health advisories, which were as follows:
- 0.004 ppt – PFOA
- 0.02 ppt – PFOS
- 10 ppt – GenX chemicals
- 2,000 ppt- PFBS.
The DOD has also promised to quickly address the levels of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water that exceed the old health advisory. However, the Pentagon has not yet committed to using the new, stricter advisories for its bases or nearby communities affected by PFAS contamination.
PFAS are Harmful to Human Health Even at Low Levels
It is worth keeping in mind that PFAS are toxic even at low levels and have been linked to cancer, harm to reproductive and immune systems, and other serious health problems. These chemicals are widely used in making water-repellent, grease-resistant, and stain-resistant coatings for a wide range of consumer goods and industrial applications.
At least 63 DOD installations have been forced to provide alternative sources of drinking water, such as bottled water and filters, to nearby homes and communities due to PFAS contamination from the bases.
The National Defense Authorization’s Mandate for Testing Water
According to the National Defense Authorization Act, the Department of Defense (DOD) should test public and private drinking water for PFAS contamination and address emerging contaminants wherever necessary.
The results from the testing so far indicate that at least 9 communities have been impacted and will require bottled water or filters for safe drinking water. This number is likely to increase as the testing continues. The new EPA health advisory could mean that hundreds of homes and communities will need the DOD’s assistance to obtain safe drinking water.
What is the EPA Doing to Address the Spread of Hazardous PFAS Chemicals?
The US Environmental Protection Agency, an official government organization, is making $1 billion available in grants through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help communities facing PFAS contamination.
This is part of a government-wide effort to address PFAS pollution and is the first of $5 billion that can be used for minimizing PFAS from drinking water present in different communities with disproportionate impacts.
All of these funds can come in handy for water quality testing, technical assistance, and installation of centralized treatment systems and technologies. EPA will reach out to states and territories for submitting letters of intent and consult with Tribes and Alaskan Native Villages.
This funding complements $3.4 billion in funding through the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds and $3.2 billion through the Clean Water State Revolving Funds that can also be used to address PFAS in the water this year to reduce, if not eliminate potentially harmful levels of hazardous chemicals.
If you want to learn more about the defense department’s steps to investigate PFA contamination, it would be best to check their official websites. It would also help you check other gov websites related to investigating and addressing the issues caused by PFAS and other dangerous substances.