Drinking water laced with high levels of poisonous chemicals may be to blame for cancer and other chronic disease among veterans and families who lived at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in northern Michigan, according to a new federal health report draft.In July 2018 the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), set the table for Congress to consider legislation that would force the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to extend health benefits to base veterans without making them prove their illnesses are linked to chemical exposure. The presumptive disabilities from contaminated water at Wurtsmith AFB would lead to automatic compensation to potentially thousands of veterans.
The chemicals, notably benzene and trichloroethylene (TCE), were documented at extremely high levels in Wurstmith AFB water many times when the former Strategic Air Command (SAC) base was active and home to B-52 Bomber Wings.
To gain a measure of the extremely high levels of contaminated drinking water, according to the ATSDR, TCE levels in a well at the corner of Arrow Street and N. Skeel Avenue were as high as 5,173 parts-per-billion (ppb) during 1977, 1978, & 1979 tests, which is more than 1,000 times the EPA's current limit of 5-ppb for TCE in drinking water. TCE in another well on Jet Street near the present day Wurtsmith AFB museum was 1,739-ppb.
This is an evolving issue with many moving parts. Stay tuned for further developments.