The Defense Department’s initial investigation into 664 sites across the nation that potentially have elevated levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in their drinking water has been expanded to at least 2,000 sites, most of them on Air Force bases, the New York Times reported Monday.
The groundwater contamination is believed to have been caused by decades of use of firefighting foam at military installations.
The Air Force has spent $137 million to assess the scope of the problem in addition to money it is paying to treat water systems and provide alternate sources of drinking water in affected communities. The ultimate cost of the cleanup will “likely be quite large,” according to one official.
“This has focus at the absolute highest level of the Air Force,” Mark Correll, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for environment, safety and infrastructure, told the paper. “We take it seriously. We’re addressing it aggressively. The Air Force will take responsibility for its actions.”
Nine active and closed bases examined by the Air Force were found to have levels of PFCs exceeding limits in an Environmental Protection Agency health advisory. They are: Dover AFB, Del.; Eielson AFB, Alaska; Horsham Air Guard Station, Pa.; former March AFB, Calif.; former Pease AFB, N.H.; former Plattsburgh AFB, N.Y.; Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; former Wurtsmith AFB, Mich.; and Peterson AFB, Colo.
The Navy has discovered contamination at four sites: Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress, Va.; Naval Weapons Station Earle, N.J.; former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Pa.; and former Naval Air Warfare Center, Pa.
“It’s quite possible it will touch every state,” said Jennifer Field, a professor at Oregon State University. “Every place has a military base, a commercial airport, an oil refinery, a fuel tank farm.”
An Air Force team is measuring PFC levels at ponds on Cape Cod, Mass., after finding elevated levels of the chemicals at Joint Base Cape Cod and just beyond its boundary, reported the Cape Cod Times. The Air Force is supplying nine homes there with bottled water due to the contamination.
Earlier this month, the Air Force this week agreed to pay $4.3 million to treat groundwater in three communities south of Colorado Springs following the discovery of elevated levels of PFCs in the towns’ public water supplies.