Tests Find Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ at 10 Oregon Army Installations

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For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, September 11, 2019

WASHINGTON – Drinking water supplies at 10 Army installations in Oregon 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 Oregon are Christmas Valley Air Force Station, an Army National Guard site in Bend, Lane County Armed Forces Reserve Center, Camp Rilea, the Biak Training Center, Ontario Readiness Center, Grants Pass Armory, Lebanon Motor Pool National Guard Site, Roseburg Armory, and Salem Anderson Readiness Center.

All of the detections were in 2017. 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 Oregon sites were contaminated with levels of PFAS above the Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion, or ppt. Tests conducted in 2018 at the Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base found PFAS chemicals in groundwater at levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory.

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. But seven of the new Oregon detections were above 1 ppt, and the Army data did not disclose the PFAS levels before the Army installed drinking water filtration systems.

Compounds detected included the two most notorious PFAS chemicals – PFOA, formerly 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.

“These results are alarming, because they show that PFAS contamination of the water provided to our soldiers is more widespread that we previously knew, and that it exposes them to a number of types of PFAS,” said EWG Policy Analyst Jared Hayes. “Some water filters can significantly reduce the levels of PFAS from tap water, but the only way to protect our soldiers and all Oregonians from these toxic chemicals permanently is for Congress to pass legislation that begins to clean up this mess.”

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.

Rep. Greg Walden, who represents Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District, is the highest-ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is a key legislator in the NDAA conference.

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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.