News Feature | January 15, 2016

Military Bases Linked To Drinking Water Contamination

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

The municipal water authority in Warminster, PA, is struggling with dangerous contaminants. Namely perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, known as PFOA.

Recent testing showed the authority “had the third-highest level of PFOS of all public drinking water systems tested in the entire country — 1.09 parts per billion — as well as a very high rate of PFOA, .349 ppb,” The Intercept recently reported.

A nearby township, Warrington, is facing similar problems.

Testing “found PFCs at elevated levels in three of its public supply wells and also shut them down. The chemicals had spread into some private wells, too. By June 2015, 45 had been identified with either a PFOA or PFOS level above the safety threshold set by the EPA. The chemicals were also present at lower levels in more than 100 other wells,” the report said.

PFOA and PFOS are manmade chemicals linked to health risks including obesity, reproductive problems, and cancers. They are used to make Teflon, stain- and water-resistant coatings, cosmetics, and other products. Each is listed on the contaminant candidate list set by the U.S. EPA, meaning they may someday become regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“PFCs persist in the environment and are easily absorbed by the human body. Both PFOS and PFOA, the best studied of these chemicals, have been shown to be ‘endocrine disruptors,’ tiny amounts of which can interfere with the hormonal system,” the report said.

Chemicals used on military sites appear to be a major part of the problem. “Water testing done in or near military bases, which isn’t yet complete, has already shown that the chemicals spread into public drinking water systems around Willow Grove, Pease, and a third base — Eielson, in Alaska,” the report said.

Warrington and Warminster are both located near Willow Grove. "Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) was commonly used in firefighting foams at Willow Grove and the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster," according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

For similar stories, visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.