thanks to Gerry Ney
Earlier this year, one South Jersey property owner got a notice: Chemicals from a nearby military base had seeped into the well that supplied drinking water to the site — contaminating it at a level 20 times higher than the federal government considers safe.
It’s a familiar story to residents from New York to Colorado, Pennsylvania to Idaho. Contamination from former or current military installations, including in Horsham, Warrington, and Warminster, has ignited a nationwide review of water on or around bases that used a firefighting foam containing toxic chemicals. In the Philadelphia suburbs, about 70,000 residents have contended with tainted water running from their taps.
The military is now testing nearly 400 bases and has confirmed water contamination at or near more than three dozen, according to an analysis of data by the Inquirer and Daily News. The new numbers offer the best look to date at the potential scope of the problem.
But despite more than $150 million spent on the effort so far, the process has been slow and seemingly disjointed. The Air Force, for instance, has completed sampling at nearly all of its targeted bases; the Navy, barely 10 percent. The Army has not begun. The branches and the Pentagon say they are coordinating, but have varying responses on how many bases must be tested, and limited information about remediation timelines and cost.
The lack of answers has been so confounding that Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) moved to amend the defense spending bill to compel the Pentagon to release a list of all bases that used the foam.
But with so many sites to evaluate, the cleanup "is not super-simple to do," said Mark Correll, a high-ranking Air Force official.
While this process plays out, the chemicals in soil or groundwater could continue to leach into drinking water, experts say, meaning the problem could grow.
“I am not going to be terribly surprised if, once a month for the next several years or something, we hear of a small community somewhere that was impacted,” said Christopher Higgins, a top researcher on this type of contamination and a professor at the Colorado School of Mines. “We’re going to be dealing with this for quite some time.”