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Water Contamination on Military Bases: A Widespread Problem

The military plans to examine hundreds of sites nationwide to determine whether chemicals from foam used to fight fires have contaminated groundwater and spread to drinking water. Contamination from former or current military installations has ignited a nationwide review of water on or around bases that used a firefighting foam containing toxic chemicals. The checks are planned for 664 sites where the military has conducted fire or crash training. California seems to have the most sites, starting at 85.
The foam is used where potentially catastrophic fuel fires can occur, such as in a plane crash, because it can rapidly extinguish them. It contains perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOS and PFOA, both considered emerging contaminants by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA said that it was assessing the potential risk from short-term exposure through contaminated drinking water. It later began studying the health effects from a lifetime of exposure. Those studies remain in progress. It seems that the chemicals may be associated with prostate, kidney and testicular cancer, along with other health issues.
While this process plays out to test drinking water and ground water around the military bases, the chemicals in soil or groundwater could continue to leach into drinking water, experts say. Officials say they have addressed sites with the greatest danger of drinking water contamination. They have also checked on-base drinking water and are providing clean water where needed. The rest of the process is slow, they say, because they must follow complex federal rules.
Erin Brokovich, who is best known for taking on Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California in 1993, is now fighting to protect our veterans and their families. She went on MSNBC’s “For the Record With Greta” to discuss the firefighting foam contamination. Brokovich will be taking part in “Operation Stand United,” a march by veterans on Washington, D.C. to bring light to toxic exposure and contamination taking place at America’s military bases.