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.

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A plasma reactor is demonstrated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to degrade and destroy perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid, better known as PFOS and PFOA, in sample groundwater on Sept. 25, 2019 (Clarkson University)

The Air Force just tested a cutting-edge water-cleaning technology that sounds like something straight out of a superhero origin story: a plasma reactor that doesn't remove chemical contaminants from the water supply, it totally destroys them, leaving the water safe to drink without generating toxic waste, the service says.

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Gross. (U.S. Army/Spc. Scott Lindblom)

WASHINGTON — The price tag to clean up contaminated water sources at all military installations is likely to climb higher than the $2 billion original cost estimate, the Pentagon said Thursday.

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(U.S. Army/Sgt. Ken Scar))

More than 16 percent of the drinking water wells tested near Fort Jackson during the past six years have shown contamination from a toxic chemical found in hand grenades used at the military installation to train soldiers, according to recently released federal data.

In some cases, the pollution levels are high enough to exceed federal safety advisories for RDX, a chemical that can cause seizures and cancer in people from long-term exposure. In others, RDX in private wells has fallen within safe drinking water limits, Army officials and state regulators reported this week.

But the finding of any RDX, short for royal demolition explosive, is a concern.

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(Associated Press)

Personnel at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam had been consuming drinking water that had been sanitized with chlorination tablets typically used in swimming pools, an Air Force spokesman confirmed Stars and Stripes.

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Gross. (U.S. Army/Spc. Scott Lindblom)

OSCODA, MI — The U.S. Air Force is telling the state of Michigan to take a regulation designed to severely limit toxic PFAS chemicals in the environment and shove it.

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