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Report: PFAS water contamination risks at NY, US military sites

  • / Updated:
  • Edwin Viera 

report from the U.S. Department of Defense finds 245 of its 275 installations are close to groundwater sources, including 13 in New York State. The danger is, these installations could be leaching PFAS “forever chemicals” into primary water sources of nearby towns and cities. Comments from Jared Hayes, senior policy analyst, Environmental Working Group.

A new report finds plumes of so-called “forever chemicals” from Department of Defense installations are located dangerously close to groundwater sources. In New York, 13 installations that belong to three branches of the U-S Armed Forces and the Defense Logistics Agency are in proximity to primary drinking water sources. Cleanup is underway on the majority of them, with remediation plans for the others being developed. Jared Hayes with the Environmental Working Group describes where the chemicals came from.

“The primary source of PFAS coming from these groundwater sources has been the historic use of firefighting foam containing PFAS, known as ‘A triple F’ [AFF]. These foams were used for decades, primarily to put out oil and gas fires, or aviation fires.”

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He explains these foams were washed off the tarmac and into the soil, where they could leach into groundwater supplies. Several methods – such as granular-activated carbon and reverse osmosis – have shown success in removing PFAS from drinking water. But they don’t break down these chemicals.

New regulations have been proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency to keep people safe from PFAS. The National Primary Drinking Water Regulation would establish maximum contaminant levels for numerous forever chemicals. Hayes says this is important, since there are numerous health impacts to ingesting PFAS.

“Long-term exposure through drinking water of PFAS has been linked to several different types of cancer. It has also been linked to immune system harms, raise cholesterol, as well as birth defects.”

This year, the New York State Legislature took up a bill to require State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit holders to report any amounts of PFAS chemicals in their discharges – but it failed in committee.