A new U.S. Department of Defense policy appears to disregard safety recommendations drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency for how to handle firefighting chemical contamination in groundwater, drawing criticism from lawmakers and activists who are calling for strict regulation.
Specifically, a DOD memo distributed across military leadership in October sets a "screening level" for the chemicals that is 10 times higher than what the EPA recommended last spring. Such screening levels are used as thresholds to determine whether the military must further investigate and potentially clean a chemical contamination, or whether it can simply disregard it and take no further action.
A federal watchdog has found most military bases have caught up on reporting about concerns of water contamination, but plenty of work remains to have more bases come into compliance and end future fears of water pollution.
Just months after federal inspectors found dead rats and rotting frogs in the reservoir system at Camp Pendleton in California, the Marine Corps says the base’s water supply is officially adequate for human consumption.
The Air Force ignored decades of warnings from its own researchers in continuing to use a chemical-laden firefighting foam that is a leading cause of contaminated drinking water for at least 6 million Americans, including thousands of people south of Colorado Springs. Multiple studies dating back to the 1970s found health risks from the foam, and even an agreement 16 years ago between the Environmental Protection Agency and the foam's main manufacturer to stop making the substance did not curtail the Air Force's usage. Until drinking water tests announced by health officials this year revealed contaminated wells here, the Air Force did almost nothing to publicly acknowledge the danger of the firefighting chemical.