When it comes to military veterans, it is generally agreed these individuals are the best America has to offer. Putting service to their country above all else, they often spend the majority of their lives serving the military. However, in recent years, many current and former service members have found themselves embroiled in a controversy involving contaminated water, as have members of many communities across the United States.
As more and more people began to fall ill in various communities such as Fountain, CO and in states from New York to Washington, the Defense Department was forced to admit that over several decades, it allowed a firefighting foam known as PFAS to slip into 55 or perhaps more drinking water systems at various military bases. As a result, many veterans as well as community members have reported large numbers of illnesses and deaths from various types of cancer, prompting many to insist on an investigation.
Once the determination was made as to the cause of the illnesses and deaths, residents of the communities learned the chemicals involved have never come under regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency. However, once the situation was discovered and residents demanded action, the EPA announced it would begin the process of regulatory action against PFAS.
While many have welcomed the action by the EPA, others question if the agency’s actions go far enough. According to officials at the CDC, it is estimated that as many as 10 million people may have been exposed to PFAS over the past several decades, with many still drinking water laced with these chemicals of which they are completely unaware.
To combat the problem, the military has taken a number of steps. Along with extensive cleanup efforts, it is also switching many municipalities to new water sources, analyzing toxic plumes, and looking for alternatives to the firefighting foam that are much safer. Unfortunately, the costs for many of these changes are falling on local and state governments, many of which it is estimated may never be paid back by the federal government.
As anger has spread among military families and others, many have chosen to take legal action against the military. However, litigating these cases can take many years, and is often difficult at best. Because of this, many families have turned to advocacy groups such as Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition to assist them in their efforts. With many residents, one of the biggest issues involves getting blood tests to determine the extent to which PFAS may be in their system. But as of now, the military has generally resisted these requests, with many citing they believe the military does not want to have what would be deemed a second Agent Orange situation on its hands.
Due to PFAS having widespread use and being known to quickly move through earth and into water, it is thus deemed “forever chemicals,” meaning that once it infiltrates a water supply, it can be there indefinitely. While there is not an abundant amount of data available regarding this issue, one study of 69,000 residents located near a DuPont plant in West Virginia that also leaked PFAS into local water supplies found a high number of residents suffered from kidney cancer and thyroid disease.
While some military veterans are suing the military directly, others are joining class-action lawsuits against companies that manufacture the firefighting foam, such as 3M and Tyco Fire Products. Yet as these lawsuits progress through the courts, many believe the problem will continue to persist, putting thousands of unsuspecting people at risk of becoming sick in the years ahead. If you have been affected by toxic chemicals in drinking water, contact a hazardous chemical attorney.