News Feature | May 1, 2018

Pentagon Releases Contamination Data

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

The Pentagon provided its most comprehensive report to date on the scope of its role in water contamination in a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing.

“The water at or around 126 military installations contains potentially harmful levels of perfluorinated compounds. The Defense Department identified 401 active and Base Closure and Realignment installations in the United States with at least one area where there was a known or suspected release of perfluorinated compounds,” Military Times reported.

“These included 36 sites with drinking water contamination on-base, and more than 90 sites that reported either on-base or off-base drinking water or groundwater contamination, in which the water source tested above the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as PFOS and PFOAs,” the report said.

The Pentagon report lists all contaminated bases. The report notes that studies link perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) to developmental delays in fetuses and children, decreased fertility, and cancer, among other health problems. The effort to test nearly 400 sites has cost over $150 million, but critics say it has been "slow and seemingly disjointed," according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Maureen Sullivan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment, safety and occupational health, said DoD has already made safety changes at affected bases, including installing filters and providing bottled water to families living there,” Military Times reported.

The U.S. EPA issued a health advisory two years ago about exposure to PFCs as various towns wage high-profile battles against the pollutants. PFCs are industrial contaminants, and research has tied them to cancer.

A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters found that “drinking water supplies for 6 million U.S. residents exceed U.S. EPA’s lifetime health advisory (70 ng/L) for PFOS and PFOA.” The chemicals tend to be found near industrial sites that manufacture the compounds, near military fire training areas, and near wastewater treatment plants.