Military Spends Millions to Replace Toxic Firefighting Foam with Toxic Foam

"The U.S. military is spending billions to clean up drinking water contaminated with toxic firefighting foam while continuing to use dangerous new formulas."

"About an hour north of Seattle at the northern edge of Puget Sound, Whidbey Island is quiet, forested, and, in Bob Farnsworth’s neighborhood, idyllic. In the 22 years he’s lived on Whidbey, where he served as a command master chief at the Naval Air Base, Farnsworth, 61, has regularly crabbed and fished for salmon and enjoyed fruit from his own trees. His home, which he recently had appraised for $469,000, is less than a mile down a fir-tree lined road from a sandy beach. Until this summer, Farnsworth, who retired from the Navy in 2007, had been planning to sell it and move to Oklahoma to live near his grandchildren.

After a 30-year career, Farnsworth has an enduring love for the Navy. But last February, he discovered a toxic side to the Navy’s presence in his life: His well, which he had used to water his fruit trees, cook, and fill his children’s and grandchildren’s glasses over the years, tested positive for three chemicals that had apparently seeped in from foam used for firefighting on the base. One chemical, PFOS, was present at 3,800 parts per trillion, more than 54 times a safety standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2016.

Because of the contamination, Farnsworth worried that he wouldn’t be able to sell his house — and decided not to put it on the market. Suddenly, a place that had been a haven felt more like a trap. “We feel like we’re hostage here,” he said recently. The realization that he and his wife had been exposed to the chemicals, which have been linked to prostate cancer and thyroid diseases, cast the struggles they have had over the past years with these very diseases in a new light. “I don’t know what was related,” he said."

Sharon Lerner reports for The Intercept in partnership with the Investigative Fund February 10, 2018.

Source: The Intercept, 02/14/2018