Pentagon urges weakened standards on PFAS contamination

It’s unclear what impact, if any, the Pentagon’s proposal to weaken standards for groundwater pollution found around military bases across the nation could have on affected Whidbey Island residents.

Testing found that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, has contaminated groundwater wells at 126 military installations. The chemicals are found in a type of firefighting foam that is used to put out petroleum-fueled fires, such as the kind involving aircraft; much of the contamination is believed to be the result training over the years.

Cleanup is estimated to cost as much as $2 billion, according to the New York Times.

The Pentagon is urging the Trump administration to set a mandatory cleanup level at 380 parts per trillion, which is more than five times the Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime advisory level and more than 30 times the level recommended as safe by the Department of Health and Human Service’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the New York Times reported.

Rick Abraham, a Whidbey Island activist, is outraged, saying the military wants to just walk away from a serious health problem it created.

“This flies in the face of all the current science and the medical evidence,” he said.

The chemicals have been linked to a wide range of health concerns, including cancer.

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island began testing wells around the Ault Field and Outlying Field Coupeville bases in 2016, after the EPA set the lifetime advisory level and the Navy issued a nationwide directive for bases to identify areas of possible contamination.

On Whidbey, 15 residential wells tested by the Navy exceed the lifetime health advisory level, according to the base.

The base provided the affected homes with bottled water.

The Navy also agreed to fund an activated carbon filtration system for the town of Coupeville to remove PFAS and to extend the service to the homes that tested above the advisory level. The cost is estimated at $5-7 million.

A proposed class-action lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court this year against 3M and other companies on behalf of Whidbey Island residents affected by the PFAS water pollution.

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