Toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS are now confirmed or suspected in ground and surface water at 678 military installations, including 16 in Michigan, according to a new analysis by the Environmental Working Group.
Representatives of EWG and U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, reviewed the findings, which relied on Defense Department records, in a video conference call with reporters on Thursday, April 2.
EWG officials said they have so far confirmed PFAS in the tap water or groundwater at 328 of the 678 military installations, including nine in Michigan. They said 28 bases had PFAS in drinking water at levels above those set by some state regulators, including Grand Ledge Army Aviation Support in Clinton County
“With this report, more and more members of Congress are going to be hearing about this …,” Kildee said. “Nobody … should ever have to worry about the water that they drink.”
Active and closed military installations have been suspected locations of PFAS contamination due to the use of fire-fighting foam that contained the chemicals during training exercises and fires. In addition to the military sites, contamination has also been found in drinking water supplies and in the environment elsewhere at levels higher than the federal guideline.
Because that national guideline is not enforceable, states like Michigan, New Jersey and Vermont are enacting their own regulations.
PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment. Research shows they increase the risk of cancer, kidney disease, thyroid conditions and auto-immune disorders. They also bioaccumulate, absorbing in a body faster than they’re eliminated.
The EWG analysis included 16 military installations in Michigan, nine of which showed confirmed discharges of PFAS and seven more with suspected discharges.
Sites with confirmed discharges are the Jackson Readiness Center in Jackson County, W.K. Kellogg Airport in Springfield, Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Mt. Clemens, Grand Ledge Army Aviation Support in Clinton County, Belmont Armory in Kent County, Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Iosco County, Camp Grayling in Crawford County, Alpena County Regional Airport in Alpena County, and K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Marquette County.
Sites with suspected discharges are Fort Custer in the Kalamazoo area, Detroit Arsenal in the Detroit area, Lansing Airport Hanger in the Lansing area, MTC-H Camp Grayling Cantonment in the Grayling area, MTC-H Grayling Airfield in the Grayling area, MTC-H Camp Grayling MATES in the Grayling area and Calumet Air Force Station in the Calumet area.
Kildee on Thursday also co-signed a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, asking for specific measures to address PFAS chemicals affecting communities and service members.
The request included requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to create a drinking water standard for two types of PFAS — PFOA and PFOS — within two years, blood testing for all DOD personnel and dependents who may have been exposed to PFAS, and increased protections for military firefighters.
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