A new study shows that almost 3,000 private wells near 63 U.S. military bases have dangerous levels of contamination by “forever chemicals.”
According to the Environmental Working Group, which is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., the Department of Defense has contaminated thousands of private water wells with dangerous levels of PFAS, known as “forever chemicals.” The non-profit organization claimed that the Department of Defense has so far refused to provide the individuals who have been impacted by the contaminated wells with clean drinking water if the contamination did not rise to the level of its current standards.
Based on a study of the Defense Department’s records, the Environmental Working Group documented 2,805 drinking water wells near 63 former and current U.S. bases across 29 states with PFOA and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFOS) contamination. The Environmental Working Group reported that the PFAS levels are over four parts per trillion (ppt) but lower than the Department of Defense’s standard of 70 ppt. If the contamination in the water is above 70 ppt, the Defense Department provides individuals with alternative options for clean drinking water.
According to Military.com, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new forever chemical contamination limit of 4 parts per trillion earlier this year; however, the new limit is not expected to take effect until the end of the year.
Environmental Working Group researchers noted that while the organization was not aware of how many people rely on the contaminated wells for drinking, bathing, or cooking, the 76 locations that were tested as part of the study makes up only a small portion of the private wells located near 714 current and former military sites in the United States.
“They are going to have to test more bases,” Jared Hayes, an Environmental Working Group senior policy analyst said. “Those 2,805 are going to be a small number when they start testing drinking water wells near every single base.”
According to the Department of Defense’s website, the agency is investigating hundreds of U.S. military bases and the surrounding communities to see if drinking water, soil, or groundwater is contaminated with forever chemicals. Military.com noted that the Defense Department is responsible for a large portion of PFAS pollution in the United States due to the use of industrial solvents, firefighting foam, and chemical spills.
A report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine explains that exposure to PFAS is linked to health issues such as cancer, high blood pressure during pregnancy, low birth weight, and a decreased response to vaccines.
The Environmental Working Group’s study also found that the Department of Defense had discovered 1,800 wells with over 70 ppt and had provided services to the owners of the wells to help mitigate the contamination.
According to Hayes, it is not clear how long some of the individuals located near the military bases with contaminated wells have been drinking water contaminated by forever chemicals. “Chances are it’s been years, decades,” he warned.