The Pentagon now admits that 651 military sites are contaminated with per- and poly fluoroalkyl substances, (PFAS), a 62 percent increase from its last count of 401 sites in August, 2017.
See the DOD’s latest addition of 250 contaminated locations organized in a logical fashion by our friends at the Environmental Working Group.
PFAS is found in the drinking water or groundwater at the new sites, although the exact levels of contamination are not known because the DOD has not conducted testing to ascertain the levels of the cancer-causing substances.
The nation’s experience thus far with the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the importance of testing individuals as a first step in containing the spread of the virus. Similarly, testing all municipal and private drinking water sources for contaminants like PFAS must be undertaken to begin the process of protecting public health. It’s not enough to know the water is poisonous.
The military’s continued use of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), made with various PFAS chemicals, is causing widespread disastrous impacts to human health and the environment. Maureen Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment told McClatchy’s Tara Copp this week that “any location where drinking water was contaminated has already been addressed.” Sullivan went on to say, “As the Defense Department begins to study the groundwater contamination in more depth, it will look at ‘where is the plume? How is it moving?’”
These statements are deceitful and contradictory. Groundwater plumes carry the carcinogens to municipal and private drinking wells. The DOD has failed to seriously address the public’s vulnerability. The deadly plumes may travel for miles, while the DOD has failed to test private wells just 2,000 feet from PFAS releases on bases in Maryland and is redacting information regarding deadly plumes in California. For years, the carcinogenic plumes have been moving in a southeasterly direction at the Wisconsin National Guard’s Truax Field in Madison, but the DOD has not been testing private wells there. People in Alexandria, Louisiana where one kind of PFAS known as PFHxS was found in groundwater at levels over 20 million ppt., haven’t had their wells tested.
Meanwhile, public health scientists warn against ingesting more than 1 ppt of PFAS daily. The DOD is deceiving the American public and the result is misery and death.
Throughout the country, the military is selectively testing areas near bases as a measure to placate local communities, and they’re typically only reporting on two or three of the more than 6,000 types of dangerous PFAS chemicals.
Consider the well water of Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Culberton, just outside of George Air Force Base in Victorville, California. Although the base closed in 1992 the groundwater used for private wells off base is still poisonous and is likely to be for thousands of years – or longer.
The Lahanton Regional Water Quality Control Board (rather than the DOD) tested Culberton’s well last year and found 859 parts per trillion (ppt) of the PFAS contaminants. PFOS and PFOA totaled 83 ppt, while the equally deadly non PFOS/PFOA contaminants totaled 776 ppt. Private wells have not been tested for the military-caused carcinogens throughout the region.
The Air Force shut down George Air Force Base in 1992. According to the October, 2005 George AFB Restoration Advisory Board Adjournment Report, groundwater plumes containing contaminants had not migrated into drinking water wells or in the Mojave River. “The drinking water in the community continues to be safe for consumption,” according to the final report.
Apparently, this is what Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Sullivan meant when she said that contaminated drinking water has “already been addressed.”
People in the Victorville community have likely been drinking poisoned water for two generations and this has been the norm in communities near bases nationwide.
PFAS levels in groundwater at 14 military installations across the country are above 1 million ppt, while the EPA has issued a non-enforceable “advisory” of 70 ppt in drinking water. 64 military sites had PFAS levels in groundwater exceeding 100,000 ppt.
A handful of corporate news outlets routinely report on the DOD’s PFAS propaganda in fleeting pieces that typically fail to analyze the issue of PFAS contamination in any detail. The DOD’s propaganda machine is now mouthing new information, accompanying the news of 250 contaminated sites.
The top brass chose the day President Trump declared a national emergency regarding the coronavirus pandemic to release its long-awaited Task Force Progress Report on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, (PFAS). The report claims to affirm the Pentagon’s “commitment to the health and safety of our service members, their families, the DoD civilian workforce, and the communities in which DoD serves.” The DOD’s actual track record falls abysmally short of the commitment.
The Task Force says it is focused on three goals: mitigating and eliminating the use of current aqueous film-forming foam, (AFFF); understanding the impacts of PFAS on human health; and fulfilling our cleanup responsibility related to PFAS.
Really? Let’s look the DOD’s deception.
Goal #1 – Mitigating and eliminating the use of current aqueous film-forming foam, (AFFF):
The DOD has shown little movement toward “mitigating and eliminating” the use of the carcinogenic firefighting foam. In fact, they’ve resisted calls to switch to environmentally friendly fluorine-free foams currently in use throughout much of the world. The DOD defends its use of the cancer-causing agents while claiming that “the DoD is one of many users of AFFF, with other major users including commercial airports, the oil and gas industry, and local fire departments.” The statement is terribly misleading because of the mass movement among these sectors away from the use of the killer foams. The military’s bull-headed stance is costing lives and wreaking havoc on the environment.
Meanwhile, the use of fluorine-free foams (F3 foams) in military and civil applications comparable to those required by MIL-SPEC (military specifications) has been routinely demonstrated in tests throughout Europe.
For instance, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) mandates tests of firefighting foam performance for civil aviation purposes which use firefighting tests. Several F3 foams have passed the highest levels of ICAO tests and are now widely used at airports worldwide, including major international hubs such as Dubai, Dortmund, Stuttgart, London Heathrow, Manchester, Copenhagen, and Auckland. Private sector companies using F3 foams include BP, ExxonMobil, Total, Gazprom, and dozens of others.
3F works for them. Why not the U.S. military?
Until 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration required the nation’s civilian airports to use carcinogenic AFFF. At that point, Congress finally acted to allow airports to use the environmentally friendly F3 foams. Almost immediately, eight states acted to pass legislation to regulate the old carcinogenic foams, and others are following suit. The DOD is not telling the rest of the story and its insistence on using these carcinogens is tantamount to criminal behavior.
Goal #2 – Understanding the impacts of PFAS on human health:
The DOD talks a good game. Even the title of Goal #2 is misleading to the public. The federal government, academic institutions, and scientists around the world have developed a tremendous body of knowledge on the health effects of PFAS.
PFAS contributes to testicular, liver, breast, and kidney cancers, although the DOD never mentions the “C” word. Scientists know quite a bit about these chemicals. For instance, one of the 6,000+ PFAS chemicals often found in groundwater and surface water adjacent to bases across the country, PFHxS, (shown above in Culberton’s water at 540 ppt.), a substitute for PFOS/PFOA, has been detected in umbilical cord blood and is transmitted to the embryo to a larger extent than what is reported for PFOS, a common carcinogen associated with DOD firefighting foams. Prenatal exposure to PFHxS is associated with occurrence of infectious diseases (such as ottis media, pneumonia, RS virus and varicella) in early life.
A US Navy Misinformation Board
As the public begins to learn more about the disastrous health impacts of these chemicals and information about the levels of contamination on bases and in surrounding communities leak out, the military is forced to hold public meetings to address mounting concerns, like the one held at the public library just outside the main gate of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Lexington Park, Maryland on March 3, 2020.
Examine this statement, taken from an information board displayed by the Navy in Maryland. “At this time, scientists are still learning about how exposure to PFAS might affect people’s health.” At face value, the statement is true; however, it leaves people thinking that PFAS contamination is a new problem and that it may not be so bad. In reality, the DOD has known of the toxicity of this stuff for nearly forty years.
The DOD could encourage the public to explore the lethal nature of various PFAS chemicals by leading people to examine the NIH’s National Library of Medicine Pub Chem search engine, but it doesn’t. This amazing resource, which has yet to be shut down by the Trump administration, details human toxicity caused by thousands of dangerous chemicals, many that are routinely used by the military and are still not regarded as hazardous substances by the EPA, and therefore, not regulated under the Superfund Law. Anything goes.
In the last few months, the Trump Administration has pulled the plug on two valuable resources: Toxnet and Toxmap. These tools allowed the public to search for a variety of military and industrial contaminants, including PFAS. The fox in in charge of the hen house while the DOD preys on an uninformed public.
Our friends at Earthjustice and the Environmental Defense Fund just released a joint investigation showing how Trump’s EPA regularly violates the Toxic Substances Control Act which governs the manufacture, use, and distribution of deadly chemicals, including PFAS. Trump has been a disaster on many accounts, but his lasting legacy will be altered DNA, birth defects, infertility and Cancer.
The panel above also states, “Some scientific studies suggest that certain PFAS may affect certain systems in the body.” The statement creates doubt in the mind of the public because it leaves open the possibility that some PFAS substances may not be so bad while the vast majority of studies suggest that all PFAS substances are potentially harmful. The DOD is following the lead of the EPA and Congress in this regard. Rather than immediately banning all PFAS chemicals and allowing the use of single PFAS’s one by one if they’re judged to be harmless, the EPA and Congress are continuing to allow the proliferation of these carcinogens while contemplating whether to go about examining them one by one.
Goal #3 – Fulfilling our cleanup responsibility related to PFAS.
Nothing could be further from the truth because the DOD does not accept responsibility for its criminal behavior. The Air Force has been claiming in federal courts that ”federal sovereign immunity” allows it to disregard any state’s regulations pertaining to PFAS contamination. The Trump Administration’s DOD is telling the American people that it reserves the right to poison them while the public can do nothing about it.
At the same time, the military is cutting and pasting from boilerplate language to produce vile propaganda like this: “The DOD has strategically prioritized the actions and is aggressively working to complete them by evaluating and establishing policy positions and reporting requirements, encouraging and accelerating research and development, and ensuring the DoD Components are addressing and communicating about PFAS in a consistent, open, and transparent matter.”
This is garbage and it’s time for the American public to wake and smell the poison.
If the DOD was truly serious about cleaning up PFAS, they’d test water across the country, including stormwater and wastewater flowing from contaminated sites on bases.
The DOD understands that PFAS from military installations have contaminated stormwater drainage systems as well as wastewater biosolids and sludge. These routine discharges represent a primary path to human ingestion because the poisoned waters contaminate surface water and sea life that is consumed by people, while the sewer sludge is spread on farm fields that grow crops for human consumption. Oysters, crabs, fish, strawberries, asparagus, and onions are poisoned – to name a few things we eat.
Rather than working with the EPA to establish responsible maximum contaminant levels in these media, the DOD’s Task Force simply calls for keeping track of various state PFAS requirements in stormwater discharge permits. The military says it will evaluate whether to develop guidance regarding disposal methods for media containing PFAS; managing all discharges containing PFAS; and handling wastewater biosolids and sludge containing PFAS. They refuse to address the public health crisis they’re caused.
Although there are approximately 600 PFAS in commerce, currently only three – PFOS, PFOA, and PFBS – have established toxicity values that the DoD uses to determine whether cleanup is necessary. The others are fair game, and many are already in your body, causing harm.
Good morning, America, how you?