By Debbie Gregory.
Because the military has confirmed water contamination at or near more than three dozen bases, testing has been expanded to nearly 400 bases.
With a price tag of more than $150 million so far, the progress has been inconsistent.
For example, the Air Force has completed sampling at nearly all of its targeted bases. The Army has yet to begin testing. The Navy is only at 10 percent. But the procedure will be the same: sample bases where the foam used in firefighting may have been used, then assess whether remediation is needed. After that, begin cleanup.
Contamination has been found near 27 military bases in 16 states, according to the Air Force, Navy, and Army. The military has also addressed contamination in on-base drinking systems on 15 installations.
The chemicals used in manufacturing and in military firefighting foam, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) have been linked to health problems including testicular and kidney cancers, thyroid disease, and high cholesterol.
If found in soil or groundwater, the contaminants could continue to leach into drinking water, experts say, meaning the problem could grow.
Officials say they have addressed sites with the greatest danger of drinking-water contamination. Whether the chemicals, which don’t degrade in groundwater, move quickly or slowly depends on what type of water system they’re in.
They have also checked on-base drinking water and are providing clean water where needed. The rest of the process is slow, they say, because they must follow complex federal rules.
“Priority one is make sure that there is no exposure to the contaminant,” said Mark Correl, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for the environment, safety, and infrastructure. Once we’ve assured that… you’re talking eight years to get yourself to a remediation solution.”