News Feature | June 29, 2018

Non-Regulation Of PFCs Complicating Military Cleanups

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

In March, the Pentagon provided its most comprehensive report to date on the scope water contamination caused by military bases.

The report, however, did more than just answer questions. It raised lots of new questions for water utilities and communities affected by water contamination.

Military Times recently interviewed Maureen Sullivan, deputy assistant secretary of defense, environment, safety, and occupational health, in an attempt to get a better understanding of the contamination problem.

“Sullivan emphasized that since the U.S. EPA’s health standards on the PFOA/PFOS exposure are just advisories, and have not been made into federal regulation, the Department of Defense (DoD) is voluntarily complying where it owns the water, but the non-regulation has complicated efforts where DoD relies on an outside vendor or municipality,” the report said.

Sullivan stressed that the long-term fix for contamination at each site is different. She said adding sites to Superfund lists overseen by the U.S. EPA is a major part of the plan.

Municipalities and local water utilities will be involved in the cleanup process.

In cases where DoD contracts water, such as from a local municipality, it has worked with the provider on a fix. At U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, in Belgium, for example. personnel are using bottled water until a longer-term fix can be found, Military Times reported.

DoD is also working with state and local health departments.

“For example, the database reports that at the Army’s Camp Grayling training center in Michigan, contaminated water systems found on base were addressed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the department installed almost 60 filter systems,” the report said.

Military Times has released a searchable database to help the public understand where contamination has occurred. 

Whether the Pentagon is providing sufficient funding to the water contamination problem, and access to that funding by water utilities, is a key part of the PFC debate. Various communities are seeking cleanup funding, The Gazette reported.

As the military executes its contamination cleanup, other branches of the government are questioning if federal regulations on PFCs are strong enough. A draft of an 800-plus-page federal report was released this month suggesting current federal guidelines on PFCs may not protect against health risks.