Staff Sgt. Levi Eck, 193rd Special Operations Wing and Sgt. Stephen Brown, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Specialist with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 28th Infantry Division, both with the Pennsylvania National Guard work on the tank of a M149 water trailer. They are also known as 'water buffaloes'. The Pennsylvania National Guard members assisted residents of U.S. Army Carlisle Barracks by supplying potable water Aug. 5 during the installation's water ban. (U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Keeler)

A multimillion dollar federal study on toxic chemicals in drinking water across the country is facing delays due to a dispute within the Trump administration, according to several sources involved in the study or who have knowledge of the process.

The dispute has implications for more than half a dozen communities where drinking water has been heavily contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Concerns about the chemicals have exploded nationally in recent years, following decades of PFAS use in products including non-stick cookware, water-resistant clothing, food packaging, carpets and military firefighting foams. Scientists say significant delays could limit the effectiveness of the study.

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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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