1. Military

Military to check for water contamination at 664 sites; 38 in Florida

Published Mar. 10, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The military is beginning to check whether chemicals from its firefighting foam may have contaminated groundwater at hundreds of sites nationwide, according to the Defense Department.

The Navy began sampling water at bases in December.

At a naval landing field in Virginia, the U.S. Navy is now giving its personnel bottled water and testing wells in the nearby rural area after the discovery of perfluorinated chemicals in drinking water. Several congressmen are raising concerns about the safety of drinking water near two former Navy bases in suburban Philadelphia because of firefighting foam.

The foam is used at locations where potentially catastrophic fuel fires can occur 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.

RELATED: After long fight over polluted water, VA grants automatic benefits to Camp Lejeune vets

Studies have shown that perfluorinated chemicals may be associated with prostate, kidney and testicular cancer, and other health issues, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The EPA issued an advisory that contains concentrations for the chemicals, above which action should be taken to reduce exposure.

They are guidelines, and not enforceable regulatory standards. The EPA said in 2009 it was assessing the potential risk from short-term exposure to the chemicals through drinking water.

The Defense Department identified 664 of its fire or crash training sites as of the end of fiscal year 2014, and the services have just begun the process of evaluating those sites to assess the risk to groundwater, Lt. Col. Eric D. Badger, a department spokesman, said this week.

California has the most, with 85, followed by Texas, with 57, Florida, with 38, and Alaska and South Carolina, each with 26, according to a list provided to the Associated Press. Some states have only one or two, such as Minnesota and Rhode Island.

The Defense Department hasn't posted a list of the sites online, and it's too early to know how many sites are contaminated.

"Because we are in the early stages of the cleanup process, we do not have the full scope of the extent of perfluorinated chemicals contamination and the actions the department needs to take to address the risks to human health and the environment," Badger said in a statement.

The Navy started handing out bottled water in January to about 50 people who work at the Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress in Chesapeake, Va., and it worked with the city to set up a water station for concerned property owners after it found perfluorinated chemicals in the drinking water wells above the concentrations in the EPA advisory.

The Navy is testing private wells of nearby property owners. The results are due next week.

Chris Evans, of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, credited the Navy with being proactive, though said he's concerned anytime there's a potential threat to human health and the environment. Some states have established their own drinking water and groundwater guidelines. Virginia uses the EPA's.

"We'll follow EPA's lead as this develops," said Evans, the director of the office of remediation programs.

The Navy found perfluorinated chemicals in the groundwater monitoring wells at Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck, New Jersey, but not in the drinking water supply. Twenty-six other naval sites didn't exceed the concentrations.

New Jersey's guideline for the chemicals in drinking water is more conservative than the EPA's, but in this case the groundwater was contaminated. Test results from off-base drinking water wells are expected this month.

There's a lot of evolving science around perfluorinated chemicals, said Lawrence Hajna, a spokesman for the state's Department of Environmental Protection.

"The more that we hear, the more that we realize that this is a very important health concern," he said.

The Defense Department says it's removing stocks of the foam in some cases and also trying to prevent any uncontrolled releases during training exercises, until formulations of firefighting foam without perfluorinated chemicals can be certified for military use. The Navy is also expecting test results from a site in Cutler, Maine, where a former fire training area was located, this month.


  1. Melvin Morris is seen in this undated photo by Nick Del Calzo. NICK DEL CALZO  |  Photo by
    Some were born in Florida. Others joined up here. All received the nation’s highest award for valor in action against an enemy force.
  2. Medal of Honor recipients Retired Army Maj. Drew Dix, left, and Ret. Army Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell pose for a portrait before the start of the Medal of Honor Convention this week at the Tampa Marriott Water Street in Tampa, OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Forty-six of the 70 living recipients are expected to attend. The week-long celebration kicks off Tuesday
  3. By the time Gunnery Sgt. John Guglielmino died Thursday at age 69, more than 200 service men and women had made the trip to Curahealth Jacksonville to salute him one last time. Facebook
    Katie Boccanelli was hoping maybe a handful of local servicemen/women might be in a position to respond.
  4. Honor guard soldiers salute as the urn containing the ashes of Maj. Albert L. Mitchell, U.S. Army (Retired) is seen during a ceremony Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    The ashes were found in a St. Petersburg attic. Nine years after his death, a soldier is buried with honors at Bay Pines National Cemetery.
  5. Patriot Guard Riders Floyd Anderson (right of center), from Riverview, and (right) Henry Hyde, from Fort Myers, embrace after the funeral for Edward K. Pearson on October 1 at the Sarasota National Cemetery in Sarasota.  Mr. Pearson was not believed to have left any family behind, so the public was invited to attend. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Edward Pearson Sr. had two sons. Their father walked out on them when they were teens. Years later, they were told he was dead.
  6. (left to right) Trevor Yarborough, 17, Kadie Weston, 17, and Connor Gadson-Yarbrough, 18, supervise their NJROTC classmates while preparing for the Iron Bear Challenge at Robinson High School in Tampa. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Many of America’s future soldiers are too young to have a personal connection to the terror attacks or the war in Afghanistan that followed.
  7. Edward K. Pearson's remains are carried in for his funeral on October 1, 2019 at the Sarasota National Cemetery in Sarasota, Florida.  Mr. Pearson did not leave any family behind, so the public was invited to attend. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    An estimated 1,500 people showed up at the ceremony held for Edward K. Pearson.
  8. The KC-135s are the main aircraft for the 6th Air Mobility Wing soon to be redesignated as the 6th Air Refueling Wing. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The 6th Air Mobility Wing celebrates its 100th anniversary while getting a redesignation
  9. A F/A-18A Hornet, assigned to the U.S. Navy flight demonstration team the “Blue Angels,” makes a pass past the crowd at the 2004 Joint Service Open House. Courtesy of Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain
    MacDill Air Force Base will host Navy aircraft for three weeks beginning Oct. 1
  10. Army veteran Edward K. Pearson died in Naples with no living relatives. A social media campaign that swept the country is expected to bring crowds to his interment at a Sarasota military cemetery. Photo from Patricia Thrasher's Facebook
    The national political community is rallying around the story of Edward K. Pearson.