PFAS Contamination, the New Flint at Military Bases and Again in Michigan

In parts of Livingston and Oakland counties, the people have been warned not to eat the fish from the Huron River and Kent, Strawberry, Zukey, Gallagher, Loon, Whitewood, Base Line and Portage lakes as well as Hubbell Pond due to the fish being contaminated with PFAS and similar chemicals coming from industries. In 2016, Michigan started to tell people about the impact of PFAS and how dangerous the PFAS and PFOAs are.

PFAS/PFOA are part of a class of man-made chemicals used in many industrial and consumer products to make the products resist heat, stains, water, and grease. Product Examples include: Teflon® cookware, waterproofing fabric and coating on fast food wrappers.

Former Army reservist Spc. Mark Favors, his relatives, and family have lived around Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base for years drinking and bathing-in base and off-base water for years. The level of PFAS and PFOA on base around Peterson Air Force Base has been established at 79 to 88,400 parts per trillion on-base wells and 79 to 7,910 parts per trillion in public and private drinking wells off base.

It was not until the EPA published its 70 parts per trillion guidelines did the DOD claim it began to understand how harmful exposure could be and voluntarily took action. Spc. Mark Favors does not buy the excuse. The issue has been explored in-depth by the Colorado Springs Gazette, which produced a timeline dating back to the first concerns about the foam used to fight fires in 1962. Fort Carson stopped using the firefighting foam in 1991 stating, “Firefighting operations that use AFFF must be replaced with nonhazardous substitutes.”

In Michigan, it will take a Flint-sized emergency before it begins to take aggressive action with businesses dumping contaminated water in company drainage pipes going to water reclamation plants. Then too, Livingston County is the richest in income in the state and is also 96% white, an advantage the county has over the City of Flint.

Fifty year old Mark Favors can count at least 16 relatives from around the area who have been diagnosed with cancer; 10 have died. Six of those relatives have died since 2012, including his father at age 69 and two cousins, ages 38 and 54.

“In my family alone, we have had five kidney cancer deaths,” Favors said. “And those people only lived in the contaminated area.”

Many of Favors’ relatives lived near Peterson Air Force Base, where scores of both on-base and off-base water sources have tested significantly above the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended exposure of 70 parts per trillion of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFAS) or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The compounds were part of the military’s firefighting foam until just last year. The same compounds in the foam have been linked to cancers and also developmental delays for fetuses and infants.

In a recent March 6, 2019 House subcommittee hearing, Mark Favors was among those in attendance as the subcommittee was questioning the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Defense representatives over the decades long use of PFAS, the failure to regulate it’s usage, provide adequate protection from its usage, and monitor the safe disposal to prevent contamination of ground water and the environment. Knowing its dangers, a reasonable person would have found an alternative to its usage as demonstrated by Fort Carson in 1991. Obvious, some elements of the military were not of that mind.

With a large degree of politeness, House Oversight and Reform subcommittee on the environment chairman Rep. Harley Rouda, D-CA commented:

“To put it charitably, it is unclear why DoD feels justified in passing the buck to the EPA, particularly in light of the evidence suggesting DoD’s awareness of the toxicity of the chemicals since the early 1980s.”

If stationed at a military bases (and who has not been for some period of time?), this is a big issue as many of us were using the water supplied to us at places such as Camp Lejeune where we were drinking and showering in water contaminated with chemicals such as benzene. For those who were at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days, there is now a list of disorders which the VHA will accept as being attributed to exposure to base water. Some of us have disorders on that list and some of us do not. There are many other military sites where former military and civilian personnel have complained of disorders and illness which they believe is attributed to the bases they were stationed during their enlistment or working as civilians.

In Michigan, there is a site where you can get an idea of how bad the issue is in and around your community. All known PFAS sites in Michigan and check your own area (at the bottom you scroll to find your county and township/community).

Many knowledgeable sources believe the 70 parts per trillion is still too high.

by run75441 (Bill H)

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