Potentially Harmful Water Contaminants Found at Over 100 Military Bases

Potentially Harmful Water Contaminants Found at Over 100 Military Bases

Potentially Harmful Water Contaminants Found at Over 100 Military Bases

By Debbie Gregory

Potentially harmful levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), which have been linked to cancers and developmental delays for fetuses and infants, have been found in the water of more than 100 military installations.

The Department of Defense (DoD) began investigating contamination at military training sites where aqueous film-forming foams containing perfluorooctane sulfonate and related fluorochemicals had been used for fire training exercises. After spending $200 million on the study, the DoD has made safety changes at affected bases which includes installing filters and providing bottled water to families living there. But the damage may have already be done.

PFC contamination in drinking water is thought to stem from two main sources: factories that formerly manufactured or used the chemicals, and locations, such as military bases, where the foam was used to extinguish jet fuel fires.

The Air Force started replacing the original firefighting foam with a “new, environmentally responsible firefighting foam” in August 2016.

Twenty-five Army bases, 50 Air Force bases, 49 Navy/Marine Corps bases have test results higher than acceptable levels for perfluorinated compounds in either their drinking water or groundwater sources. The cleanup will take years and cost billions of dollars.

Many Marines who ingested contaminated water at Camp Lejuene, the largest Marine base on the East Coast, have died or lost family members, especially children with extreme birth defects or leukemia–and many more still are sick and dying with rare cancers and other ailments believed to be linked to the water contamination.

According to Maureen Sullivan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment, safety and occupational health, each base should have its water information posted. An on-site restoration program manager point person who is tasked with addressing environmental cleanup issues is available to address questions and concerns.

Toxic Pollution Investigation on U.S. Military Bases


By Debbie Gregory.

Like many U.S. military bases, Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana generates large volumes of toxic waste. That includes thousands of pounds of toxic powder left over from cleaning, painting and maintaining airplanes.

Barksdale had found a contractor, Ohio-based U.S. Technology Corp, that was willing to take the powder and then recycle it into cinder blocks to be used in construction. U.S. Technology had won some 830 contracts with other military facilities — Army, Air Force, Navy and logistics bases, totaling more than $49 million, many of them to dispose of similar powders.

It sounded great in theory. But it turns out that rather than recycling the waste, U.S. Technology Corp was stashing it in warehouses across the country, in violation of numerous federal regulations, not to mention the potential health and environmental risks.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency got involved last year, and the investigation revealed systemic failures in military oversight and corruption among contractors hired to eliminate dangerous waste.

“How Military Outsourcing Turned Toxic,” a report by Abrahm Lustgarten for ProPublica, focused on contractor abuse in Pentagon hazardous-materials disposal.

One of the biggest issues was that the Pentagon didn’t have enough staff or resources to oversee cleanup operations.

“Some of the most dangerous cleanup work that has been entrusted to contractors remains unfinished, or worse, has been falsely pronounced complete, leaving people who live near former military sites to assume these areas are now safe,” according to ProPublica.

Raymond F. Williams, president and owner of U.S. Technology Corporation, was no stranger to legal problems. He and his company were investigated in Macon, GA for dumping hazardous waste nearly identical to what Barksdale had produced onto the grounds of the Middle Georgia Raceway. Williams was also indicted in Georgia for paying a Department of Defense official $20,000 a year to make sure that Air Force contracts required U.S. Technology’s services, and no other company could compete.

In April 2015, U.S. Technology Corp. fired all of its employees. The next day, the new owner who had purchased the patented products and the recycling process from Williams, hired everyone back and renamed the company U.S. Technology Media, and is located in one of Williams’ old recycling buildings.

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