Groundwater PFAS plumes ‘in the proximity’ of drinking water sources

Oct. 30, 2023
PFAS flowing from 245 Department of Defense installations nationwide are close to groundwater aquifers that are used as drinking water sources, according to a DOD report.

A new Department of Defense (DOD) report finds that plumes of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in groundwater are in the proximity of nearby drinking water supplies, according to a press release from the Environmental Working Group.

The report, required by Congress, found plumes of PFAS flowing from 245 of 275 DOD installations were close to groundwater aquifers that are used as primary or secondary drinking water sources.

To conduct the report, officials used DOD and Environmental Protection Agency data to determine whether military bases with PFAS contamination were “in the proximity” of community drinking water wells, intakes, sole source aquifers and private domestic wells.

The report did not disclose how the DOD determined that wells were “in the proximity” of bases or whether these wells were actually contaminated.

“Hydrology does not respect political boundaries,” said Jared Hayes, EWG’s senior policy analyst. “This troubling report suggests that DOD’s PFAS plumes have contaminated far more drinking water than was previously understood.”

PFAS plumes could be threatening aquifers at hundreds of other bases. But the DOD has so far only looked at 275 bases where the second stage of its cleanup process has been initiated, according to the report. PFAS contamination has been confirmed at 455 bases, and hundreds of other bases are still being evaluated, records show.

To date, the Pentagon has provided 53 communities with alternative drinking water supplies due to PFAS contamination. But the DOD only provides alternative drinking water when PFAS levels are above 70 parts per trillion, or ppt.

The number of sites where the DOD will have to provide alternative drinking water is expected to increase once proposed EPA standards are finalized.

EPA is finalizing national drinking water standards for six PFAS this year, but the new standards will likely take several years to be implemented.

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