Drinking Water at Arizona Army Facilities Contaminated with Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’

Drinking Water at Arizona Army Facilities Contaminated with Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’

Thursday, September 12, 2019

WASHINGTON – Drinking water supplies at seven Army installations in Arizona are contaminated with the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to newly released Department of Defense data obtained by EWG under the Freedom of Information Act.

The sites in Arizona are the Yuma Proving Ground, Silverbell Army Heliport, Camp Navajo, Fort Huachuca, Camp Florence, the Buckeye Training Site and the Picacho Aviation Training Site.

The detections occurred between 2016 and 2018. Several of the sites were contaminated with multiple members of the class of toxic chemicals. Some PFAS have been linked at very low doses to cancer, reproductive and immune system harm, thyroid and kidney disease, and other health problems.

Nationally, the data provided through the FOIA added 90 current and former Army and Army National Guard installations to the list of locations that are contaminated with PFAS chemicals. They raise the number of Army installations with known PFAS contamination of drinking water or groundwater from 18 to 108, and the total number of military installations with known contamination from 207 to 297.

Click here to see the complete list.

None of the newly listed Arizona sites was contaminated with levels of PFAS above the Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion, or ppt.

But the EPA’s advisory level is 70 times higher than the 1 ppt safe level found by some independent studies and endorsed by EWG. Some states have set limits ranging from 11 ppt to 20 ppt.

The levels of PFAS detected at four of the seven Arizona Army installations were far higher than 1 ppt, including Yuma Proving Ground (66.6 ppt), Silverbell Army Heliport (39.17 ppt), Camp Navajo (31.26 ppt), and Fort Huachuca (26.5 ppt).

Compounds detected included the two most notorious PFAS chemicals – PFOA, once used to make DuPont’s Teflon, and PFOS, formerly an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard. Both were phased out under pressure from the EPA after studies found links to cancer, harm to the reproductive and immune systems, and other health problems.

PFAS chemicals have been detected in the drinking water of 19 million Americans in 49 states, and unreleased EPA data show that up to 110 million people may have PFAS-contaminated drinking water.

“The results of these tests should raise alarms for those who work and live on or near these Army facilities,” said EWG Senior VP for Government Affairs Scott Faber. “There are water filters that can reduce the levels of PFAS from drinking water, but that is no more than a Band-Aid. The only way to protect our service members, their families and those who live near these facilities in Arizona is for Congress to act.”

In June, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020, which contains a number of critical PFAS monitoring and cleanup amendments. Included was one that requires the Pentagon to phase out, by 2023, the use of PFAS-based firefighting foam and require military facilities to meet state cleanup standards. 

In July the House passed its version of the act, with several PFAS amendments, including one that would designate PFAS as “hazardous substances” under the federal Superfund law.

Negotiators from the House and Senate are hammering out a final version of the defense spending bill. EWG is pressing lawmakers to include all of the PFAS amendments in the bill Congress sends to President Trump for his consideration.

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.