PFAS Groundwater Contamination at Military Sites

A worker examines the amount PFAS in the water supply of a military installation.

Legal representation for military families affected by PFAS groundwater contamination

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The Carlson Law Firm is currently investigating complaints of water pollution from perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) near military installations. Contaminated water on U.S. military installations stretches from sea to shining sea and into the waters of the Pacific. In fact, the Department of Defense (DOD) has identified 401 military sites in the United States with fluorinated chemical water contamination and officials estimate there may be more. The level of these toxic chemicals in the groundwater far exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s health guideline. Studies link PFAS chemicals to several cancers and birth defects. If you or a loved one has lived on or near a military installation, contact a qualified PFAS Groundwater Contamination Attorney from The Carlson Law Firm. 

Our team of dedicated attorneys can help you determine the source of your cancer or birth injuries. Further, a qualified PFAS Attorney can help you determine if filing a claim is the right option for you. For more than 40 years we have represented clients who have suffered illness or injury from the carelessness of others. We are a veteran-owned law firm headquartered near one of the largest military bases in the United States. We have represented thousands of veterans and their families. Contact The Carlson Law Firm to find out how we can serve you. 

What is PFAS?

Known as forever chemicals, perfluoroalkyl substances are a group of man-made chemicals that include PFOA and PFOS. There are actually hundreds of PFAS, however, PFOA and PFOS are the most popular. The chemicals have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries since the 1940s. PFAS is made up of two subgroups:

  • Perfluoroalkyl substances
  • Polyfluoralkyl substances

Unfortunately, despite a partial phase-out by the United States, these chemicals continue to exist in the environment, as well as in living organisms including humans. PFAS are resistant to even the most advanced water treatment technologies. They persist the way they do because of the chemical bond between the carbon and fluorine atoms. The bond between carbon and fluorine atoms is extremely strong and stable. 

If you or a loved one suffered illness or birth injury because of military PFAS groundwater contamination, contact The Carlson Law Firm.

Where are PFAS chemicals found?

As noted above, PFAS don’t break down in the body and accumulate over time. There is significant data that exposure to PFAS leads to adverse human health effects. PFAS can be found in the following: 

  • Food. Produce that is grown in PFAS contaminated soil or water, items that are processed in equipment that use PFAS or packaged in material containing PFAS can all be a source of introduction the chemicals into the body. 
  • Commercial household products. Fabrics that contain stain and water repellant; nonstick products such as Teflon; polishes, waxes, paints, and cleaning products.
  • Fire-fighting foams are a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases with firefighting training.
  • Production or factory jobs. Industry jobs that involve chrome plating, electronics manufacturers and oil recovering that use PFAS.
  • Water sources. The runoff from manufacturers, landfill, wastewater treatment plants and firefighting training facilities can contaminate local ground or drinking water sources. 
  • Living organisms. PFAS can build up in fish, land animals and even humans. 

Other places PFAS may be found include pesticides, ink, medical devices, metal plating and hydraulic fluids. 

What are PFOS and PFOA?

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid are fully fluorinated compounds that do not occur naturally in the environment. Both chemicals are made up of chains of eight carbons. The substances both have a unique ability to repel oil and water. This ability has made them ideal to use in:

  • Surface protection products such as carpet cleaning and clothing treatments
  • Coatings for paper
  • Cardboard packaging
  • Leather products
  • Industrial surfactants
  • Emulsifiers
  • Wetting agents
  • Additives and coating
  • Processing aids
  • Nonstick coating
  • Electrical wire casing
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Plumbing thread seal tape

The use of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) to extinguish fires is largely viewed as a significant source of contamination. The manufacturer used PFOS and PFOA in AFFF up until 2001. At that time, the primary U.S. manufacturer of PFOS voluntarily phased out production. In 2006, another eight major companies voluntarily phased-out PFASs production. 

PFOS and PFOA have been found in drinking water that is typically associated with manufacturing locations, industrial use or disposal. 

What are acceptable levels of PFAS in groundwater?

In 2009, the EPA issued provisional guidance, health advisories and soil screenings on PFAS toxicity values. However, in 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency established a new lower, guideline for acceptable levels of PFOS or PFOA. Under the lowered guideline, PFOS and PFOA levels should be no more than 70 parts per trillion. 

While these guidelines aren’t enforceable, the DOD said that it would work toward complying with the new standards. 

Why did the EPA lower PFAS guidelines?

The EPA issued the health advisory about PFAS levels after its assessment of peer-reviewed science. The goal was to provide those responsible for monitoring water systems updated information on the health risks of these chemicals. Ultimately, the EPA wants to empower agencies to take the necessary actions to protect local residents. 

The studies the agency reviewed in its assessment included tests on laboratory rats and mice. Further, the studies were also informed by epidemiological studies of human populations that have been exposed to the man-made chemicals. The studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects.

What are the adverse health effects of PFAS?

Studies show that PFOS and PFOA are extremely toxic to laboratory animals. The substances affect reproductive, developmental and other adverse systemic effects. Those who have accumulated significant PFAS levels in their bodies are at risk for the following conditions:

  • Developmental delays in fetuses during pregnancy or breastfeeding infants
  • Low birth weight
  • Accelerated puberty
  • Skeletal variations
  • Cancer (testicular and kidney)
  • Liver damage
  • Immune deficiency
  • Thyroid effects

Exposure to PFAS can occur through eating, drinking, use of consumer products and inhaling. Several other countries have noted the adverse health effects of PFOA and PFOS and have issued water safety standards concerning the chemicals. 

If you suspect you have one of these conditions as a result of groundwater near a military installation, contact a qualified PFAS Lawsuit Attorney to discuss your legal options. The Carlson Law Firm is a veteran-owned law firm near one of the largest U.S. military bases in the world. Contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. 

How did military installation waters become contaminated?

According to the Environmental Working Group, the Department of Defense (DOD) has used firefighting foam for nearly 50 years. The military used the substance for maintenance, testing and training. As a result, these chemicals saturate the soil at hundreds of military installations. In 2003, the Government Accountability Office released a report that as much as 15 million acres of land in the United States was contaminated from munitions. 

The firefighting foams were developed in the 1960s by the Naval Research Laboratory with 3M. They were developed after a fire tore through the aircraft carrier Forrestal. The foam works by blanketing a fire and preventing the vapors from coming up and reigniting. 

What is the DOD doing about contaminated waters?

For starters, the military is no longer using firefighting foam that contains PFAS chemicals for maintenance, testing or training. Responders only use these chemicals during real emergencies. And even in emergencies, the DOD says that they’re cleaning up the substance to ensure it doesn’t get into the environment. 

Further, the DOD is using a clean-up process known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability. Representatives from the DOD say that this is a long process that doesn’t happen overnight. 

Finally, the DOD is looking into other, safer alternative chemicals to put out fires.

The Government Accountability Office recommended that the DOD revises its comprehensive plan and incorporate the following: 

  • Establish deadlines for completing deadline and first evaluations
  • Reassess the timetable proposed for completing its reevaluation sites
  • Establish interim goals based on relative risks and cleanup phases

PFAS isn’t the only concern that military families have to worry about while they are living at different stations. There are more than 2,300 military sites that the DOD has identified contaminated with several munitions.

What is the DOD’s typical contamination cleanup process?

As mentioned above, the DOD typically follows established cleanup action under CERCLA. This process includes the following:

  • Preliminary assessment. During this phase, the DOD determines whether or not there is a potential munitions hazard. 
  • Site investigation. The DOD will send officials to the site and search historical records to confirm the presence, extent and source of the hazards.
  • Cost analysis. Once the extent of the contamination is determined, a cleanup plan will be put into action if it is necessary.
  • Remedy. Implementation of the cleanup process or other appropriate response will begin. 
  • Long-term monitoring. There will be periodic check-ins to review the cleanup/remedy process. 

The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

Dealing with an illness or birth injury can be a difficult time in anyone’s life. However, it’s important to note that companies have a responsibility to comply with federal regulations and protect citizens from potential harms their products can cause. If you or a loved one suspects your injury was caused by the groundwater near a military installation, contact The Carlson Law Firm. Our team of compassionate Mass Torts attorneys are dedicated to protecting your rights and ensuring justice is served. 

We are currently investigating claims in all 50 states concerning adverse health effects from PFOA and PFOS contaminated water near military installations. 

We offer free consultations and work on contingency. In other words, you don’t pay unless we successfully resolve your case. Contact The Carlson Law Firm to discuss your legal options with a qualified PFAS Groundwater Contamination Attorney. 


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