Armed Forces News

Peterson Air Force Base Fire Department conducts live training with the Cimarron Hills Fire Department July 21, 2014, at a special training facility on Peterson AFB, Colo. The all-steel training structure is fueled by a massive propane tank that was designed to resemble a C-130 Hercules airframe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Golembesky/Released)

A map released by an environmental organization April 3 revealed that 678 military installations are either confirmed or suspected of having the presence of a toxic fluorinated chemical known as PFAS. The armed services use PFAS in firefighting foam.

The non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) obtained a map of installations from the Defense Department through a series of requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The chemical has penetrated the tap water or ground water at 328 of these installations. Analysis by EWG indicated that people who live at 28 bases and nearby communities are consuming this water, which in some states exceeds safety regulations.

PFAS contaminates the blood system and has been linked to cancer, reproductive and immune system harm. Because the human body cannot break the chemical down, it can build up and remain in the blood and organs permanently. It also sticks around in the environment and can leech into ground water.

DoD has spent hundreds of millions of dollars investigating and responding to firefighting foam contamination, according to GAO. As of 2018 the department had identified over 400 installations with known or potential releases of PFAS chemicals and began taking actions such as providing alternate drinking water at some sites.

“We found PFAS detections at 14 installations that were above one million parts per trillion … far above the 70 [parts per trillion] advisory level recommended by the EPA,” EWG stated in a press release.

The organization faulted DoD for being slow to respond to potential risks associated with PFAS until 2011, even though military officials knew about them since the early 1970s. EWG hailed a provision of the 2020 defense-spending bill that called for discontinuing the use of PFAS-laden aqueous film-fighting foam by 2024, but called lawmakers and the Pentagon alike to task for not taking steps to mitigate the “serious public health risks” the chemical poses.

“Congress must do more to accelerate the cleanup of legacy PFAS contamination,” the group stated, and “do more to alert active and retired service members and their families about their exposure to PFAS and the health risks they face as a result.”

List of the 28 bases with the most serious PFAS contamination problems:
View Interactive map

* MCOLF Atlantic, North Carolina
* Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona
* Fort Bragg, North Carolina
* Center Stratford Training Site, New Hampshire
* West Point Military Reservation, New York
* Marianna Readiness Center, Florida
* Sharpe Army Depot, California
* Silverbell Army Heliport, Arizona
* Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania
* Coronado Warner Springs, California
* Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois
* Camp Navajo, Arizona
* Camp Tarlton, Ohio
* Fort Riley, Kansas
* Ocala Readiness Center, Florida
* Fort Huachuca, Arizona
* North Smithfield Air National Guard Station, Rhode Island
* Camp Parks, California
* Camp Ripley, Minnesota
* Grand Ledge Army Aviation Support, Michigan
* Gunpowder MI Reservation, Maryland
* Shelbyville Army Aviation Support Activity, Indiana
* Frederick Readiness Center, Maryland
* Christmas Valley Air Force Startion, Oregon
* Norfolk National Guard Site, Nebraska
* Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland
* Midwest City Readiness Center, Oklahoma
* White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
* Fort Gordon, Georgia

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