Category Archives: U.S. Military

Military to check whether firefighting foam contaminated wells

Repost from Associated Press – The Big Story
[Editor: More information: A list of the fire and crash training sites where the military is assessing the risk of groundwater contamination from firefighting foam:  – RS]

Military to check for water contamination at 664 sites

By Jennifer McDermott, Mar. 10, 2016 5:12 PM EST
In this Feb. 2, 2016 photo, area residents gather around an aerial photograph of Fentress Naval Auxiliary Landing Field during a meeting at a school, in Chesapeake, Va. The military is beginning to check whether chemicals from its firefighting foam may have contaminated groundwater at hundreds of sites nationwide, according to the Defense Department. The Navy started handing out bottled water in January to people who work at Fentress. (Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot via AP) MAGS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The military plans to examine hundreds of sites nationwide to determine whether chemicals from foam used to fight fires have contaminated groundwater and spread to drinking water, the Defense Department said.

The checks are planned for 664 sites where the military has conducted fire or crash training, military officials told The Associated Press this week.

Since December, tests have been carried out at 28 naval sites in mostly coastal areas. Drinking water at a landing field in Virginia and the groundwater at another site in New Jersey have been found to contain levels above the guidance given by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Navy said. Results of the other tests have either come up under federally acceptable levels or are pending.

The Navy is giving bottled water to its personnel at the Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress in Chesapeake, Virginia, and is testing wells in a nearby rural area after the discovery of perfluorinated chemicals in drinking water, which the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says may be associated with prostate, kidney and testicular cancer, along with other health issues.

The Navy found perfluorinated chemicals in the groundwater monitoring wells at Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck, New Jersey, but not in the drinking water supply. Test results from off-base drinking water wells are expected this month.

And several congressmen are raising concerns about the safety of drinking water near two former Navy bases in suburban Philadelphia. The lawmakers say firefighting foams might be the source of chemicals found in nearly 100 public and private wells near the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove and the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster.

The foam is used where potentially catastrophic fuel fires can occur, such as in a plane crash, because it can rapidly extinguish them. It contains perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOS and PFOA, both considered emerging contaminants by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Defense Department said that until foam without perfluorinated chemicals can be certified for military use, it is removing stocks of it in some places and also trying to prevent any uncontrolled releases during training exercises.

The military is beginning to assess the risk to groundwater at the training sites not only to determine the extent of contamination, but also to identify any action the Defense Department needs to take, said Lt. Col. Eric D. Badger, a department spokesman.

California has the most sites, with 85, followed by Texas, with 57, Florida, with 38, and Alaska and South Carolina, each with 26, according to a list provided to the AP. Each state has at least one site.

Knowledge about the chemicals’ effects has been evolving, and the EPA does not regulate them. The agency in 2009 issued guidance on the level at which they are considered harmful to health, but it was only an advisory — not a standard that could be legally enforced.

The EPA said then that it was assessing the potential risk from short-term exposure through drinking water. It later began studying the health effects from a lifetime of exposure. Those studies remain in progress.

The Navy started handing out bottled water in January to about 50 people at the contaminated Virginia site, and it worked with the city to set up a water station for concerned property owners after it found perfluorinated chemicals in on-base drinking water wells above the concentrations in the EPA advisory.

The Navy is testing private wells of nearby property owners; those results are due next week.

Chris Evans, of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, credited the Navy with being proactive but said he’s concerned anytime there’s a potential threat to human health and the environment.

Some states have established their own drinking water and groundwater guidelines for the maximum allowable concentrations of the chemicals; Virginia uses the EPA’s.

“We’ll follow EPA’s lead as this develops,” Evans said.

There’s a lot of evolving science around perfluorinated chemicals, said Lawrence Hajna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

“The more that we hear, the more that we realize that this is a very important health concern,” he said.


Online: A list of the fire and crash training sites where the military is assessing the risk of groundwater contamination from firefighting foam:

U.S. military is adapting for climate change

Repost from High Country News, Paonia, Colorado

Mission Ready for Climate Change

Five things the West can learn from the military about climate adaptation.
By Joshua Zaffos Nov 1, 2014

Arizona’s first major wildfire of 2014 ignited this past spring on Fort Huachuca, a U.S. Army base not far from the Mexico border. The incident marked the second time in three years the army was fending off flames in a part of the country where rain is always scarce and temperatures can peak into the ’90s in April.

“As they have more hot and dry days when they can’t use tracers or do live (ammunition) training exercises, that impacts (the Army) and other military units, such as Navy SEALs or Special Forces, that are trying to use Fort Huachuca,” says Rafe Sagarin, a research scientist with the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2.

The military, in other words, is paying attention to the risks of climate change. In mid-October, the Department of Defense released its 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, a 16-page report outlining the Armed Forces’ response plan for global warming. In defense parlance, climate change acts as a “threat multiplier” that can exacerbate conflicts and political stability. The roadmap report states: “Climate change will affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the Nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security.”

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. and Maj. Gen. Mark A. Graham, commanding general, Division West, First Army and Fort Carson, prepare to cut the ribbon on the Fort Carson solar array Jan. 14, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Michael J. Pach.

The department’s severe outlook places it ahead of Congress in preparing for climate change. Plans and actions at installations are also blazing trails for neighboring cities on how to adapt to new and risky conditions. So, with that, we give you five things the West can learn from the military about climate adaptation:

1. Be Mission Oriented

Government leaders, particularly Republicans, have ducked climate action by claiming not to understand the causes of global warming. The military, with its own conservative leadership, isn’t equivocating.

“Military personnel are very action-oriented,” says Sagarin, who is researching climate adaptation at several military installations. “We say, ‘What do you need to do on this base, Colonel?’ and then we can immediately move into mission space and how they are going to be impacted by the changes we’re anticipating and how they are going to respond. We don’t go in there and talk about the latest IPCC report.”

2. Start Small…Then Go Big

Fort Carson, outside Colorado Springs, Colorado, is an Army base serving 68,000 people, including personnel and families. From an initial small and high-cost solar array, Fort Carson now is working to be a net-zero-energy, water and waste district by 2020 – that produces as much energy as it uses and reuses nearly all of its wastewater. The base has a 4.7-megawatt solar array (operating at less than half of the original per-watt cost as the sector has grown), 78 buildings constructed under LEED green-building standards, and homes with efficient, indirect evaporative coolers (instead of conventional swamp coolers). “We’re taking small steps today so we can take bigger steps in the future,” says Vince Guthrie, Fort Carson utilities program manager.

3. Look Long

Fort Carson would rank among Colorado’s 15 largest cities, but it’s taken a more aggressive approach toward energy efficiency and conservation than municipalities.

“A Defense installation has a long-term financial outlook,” Guthrie says, “so projects can have a 10- to 15-year payback.” Compare that with nearby Colorado Springs Utilities, which also provides services to the base: “The city’s other customers want the lowest possible utility cost now,” Guthrie says, “whereas we’re trying to get a hedge against higher energy costs in the long term.”

4. Go with Allies

At Naval Base Coronado and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, near San Diego, California, training beaches have eroded due to increased wave action and surges. The losses prevent Marines and Navy SEALs’ training, and also stall efforts to protect the threatened western snowy plover, which need undisturbed beaches for nesting.

The military is working with Sagarin and others to understand how to turn short-term fixes, such as rebuilding sand berms every year, into long-term solutions. But the Armed Forces are not abandoning the birds: The bases partner with the San Diego Zoo to protect undeveloped shorelines and clear out predators and non-native plants, and have some of the most productive nesting sites for the birds.

“All these agencies and groups need to work together and not just have an inter-agency dialogue,” Sagarin says. “We’re seeing the importance of – what biologists call – symbiotic partnerships.”

5. Freedom Isn’t Free… and Neither Is Water

Cities that try to regulate strict building requirements and steep utility rates often face criticism from residents who feel their rights – to, say, water their lawn – are being curtailed.

Military bases can be “more prescriptive” in setting rules, says Guthrie, but he adds that both communities and the military are ultimately trying to sway personal behavior.

“Anytime we encourage people to conserve, they feel like we’re challenging their quality of life,” says Guthrie. Cities and community members “can learn from the Department of Defense – it all starts with a vision and, to deal with climate change, you have to get culture change and that is something we deal with everyday.”