How Military Pollution Could Cause The Next Water Crisis


I’ll take you out on the dock. For me, you know, it’s a life of
crabs and fishing and chickens and oysters and PFAS contamination. Go figure. I actually picked up my morning paper one
day and saw a headline that said the next Flint may be in
northern Michigan, or something like that. And I thought oh boy that’s really bad
and then they had a picture – it was a picture of my lake. These training facilities would spray
this firefighting foam where it’d wash into the ground, wash into
a nearby stream and it’s actually soaked into the ground and contaminated
groundwater and surface water in most bases across the country. The military’s use of a firefighting foam
with the intention to save lives could have dire consequences for the people
who handled it and the people who live nearby. Now, communities are wondering what it
means for their health and their homes, snd who’s responsible to
clean it all up. The investigations are tangled up
in politics and national security. The chemicals in the foam itself
are the subject of corporate lawsuits, scientific discovery and an ongoing
threat to human health. We know the anecdote that the Roman
Empire went down because of lead poisoning. But the PFAS, I
didn’t, I mean myself, I didn’t know until about 10 or 12
years ago that this was something that I might have to worry about. The U.S. military has used a firefighting foam
called AFFF since the late 60s. It’s good at putting out
jet fuel fires really fast. But over the past couple decades, scientists
have found that one of the chemical compounds that makes AFFF so
effective might also be poisoning the people who live and work in
and around the bases that use it. The chemicals at the center of it all
are called PFAS, short for per- or poly-fluoroalkyl substances. Think of PPAS
like the umbrella term for hundreds of these chemical compounds
that are based on fluorine-carbon bonds. The most common ones
are PFOS and PFOA. What make PFAS so useful in
manufacturing is how the chemicals fit together. The fluorine atoms just so
happened to fit perfectly around the carbon atoms to create a bond that
resists things like heat, oil and water. And so that’s actually what’s led to
a lot of the contamination issues. PFAS don’t occur naturally
in the environment. The chemical compounds were invented by
scientists in the late 30s early 40s. Then came two of the most
widely used inventions that were made with PFAS: Teflon and Scotchgard. Those product lines have revolutionized
home cooking and cleaning along with the chemical industry itself. Today PFAS are used in a ton
of products, from raincoats to waterproof shoes, non-stick pots and pans, microwave
popcorn bags and even cosmetics. But over the last few decades, companies
have had to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements
over PFAS contamination stemming from manufacturing. 3M, DuPont and Chemguard
settled these multimillion dollar cases without admitting
any wrongdoing. The producers have said all there’s
absolutely no risk and they’re not dangerous, they’re so stable. But that’s exactly the problem. That’s Phillipe Grandjean, one of
the world’s leading PFAS researchers. Documents that have been made available
in legal cases involving 3M and DuPont show the companies had been studying
the health effects of PFAS for decades. One document is a 1999
resignation letter from a 3M environmental specialist saying his resignation was
prompted by his “profound disappointment” in the company’s handling
of risks associated with PFOS. In another instance, Bucky Bailey, the
son of a former DuPont factory worker who worked in the Teflon division,
was born with one nostril and a deformed eye. He’s been outspoken about PFAS contamination,
though the C8 Science Panel could not conclude his deformities
were linked to PFAS. Chemours, which was spun off from DuPont
in 2015, told CNBC it does not currently use PFOA or PFOS in
any of its manufacturing processes. And 3M announced the phase out of
the two PFAS compounds in 2000. To make sense of how the military fits
into all of this, I called Dr. Stephen TerMaath, an Air Force official
working on the cleanup of PFAS contamination at the Wurtsmith Air
Force Base in Oscoda, Michigan. Active duty soldiers left the base in
the 90s, but contamination from past firefighting activity is still there. Today Wurtsmith is home to housing
complexes, local businesses and a giant filter that’s working to remove
PFAS from the water. Meanwhile, active military bases across the
country are still using AFFF that contains PFAS, even though
the military recognizes its dangers. That’s because technically,
they’re required to. Other countries like Australia have
started to roll out fluorine-free alternatives. The U.S. Navy said it’s working on developing
a new PFAS-free formula and minimizing the additional release of
the foam into the environment. Service members who have already been exposed
to AFFF are trying to put the pieces together. I talked with James Bussey, an Air
Force veteran who was stationed at Wurtsmith from 1989 to 1992. The Environmental Working Group and
Northeastern University have been mapping out all of the known
PFAS contamination sites across the U.S. As of July 2019, there were more
than 700 locations across 49 states. 175 of those were military bases. The contamination at the hundreds of
other locations were found at public water systems, airports, industrial plants
and firefighter training sites. And there have been reports of
PFAS contamination on military bases in other countries too. But for this video we’re just going
to focus on how it’s affecting people in the U.S. Exposure to the chemical compound has
been linked to some pretty serious health problems like miscarriages, thyroid
disease even cancer. These compounds, once they get into
the body, they stay there. And they stay there for a very
very long time, perhaps even decades for some of them. And that is precisely what makes me
worry that they can cause adverse effects in the long run, not
just a matter of short-term poisoning. James had his blood tested for
six types of PFAS in 2018. Despite not working with AFFF for more
than two decades, his test results showed one type of PFAS commonly used
in firefighting foam at levels more than three times
the national average. The VA has not been able to definitively
link this to any of his health conditions. The communities who live around military
bases are feeling the impact of PFAS contamination too. Water is huge. If you looked at an aerial map
you will see it’s Lake Huron, it’s Van Etten Lake, it’s
the Au Sauble River. So for recreational purposes, for
sustainability purposes, people live off the fish and the wildlife there. So it’s, I mean, if
you take away the water in Oscoda, you take away Oscoda. Since PFAS don’t naturally break down
in the environment, the chemicals are still being found in the water from AFFF
use in the 70s, 80s and early 90s. Tony’s lake house across from the
former Wurtsmith Air Force Base falls within the lines of what’s
been designated a zone of concern. It wasn’t until 2016 that some Oscoda
residents were first told not to drink the groundwater. That’s when it first really was
big time on my radar screen. Residents whose well water was contaminated
were given bottled water and reverse osmosis filtration systems to
use under their kitchen sink. We have been told that we can’t
eat the fish from the river. We’ve been told that we can’t eat
venison from deer harvested within a five mile radius essentially
of the base. We’ve been told if you live in
this zone of concern that you shouldn’t drink your drinking water. We have swept these things under the rug
for far too long, for decades, for convenience, for short term profit. We’re paying the piper now. For the people who swam in the lake
and drank the water the fallout is still unknown. People don’t like to
advertise their health problems. No one does. What I’ve seen in Oscoda is a lot of
folks who are living in a kind of silent desperation. As a citizen activist nearby I wanted
to find out if there was any documented PFAS exposure to the people
in this community, including me because I’m only four or five
miles away from the potential plume. It’s possible. Exactly how far PFAS can travel
in the environment has been debated. Scientists say it’s anywhere from a few
miles to all the way across the world. Just hop on the boat and you know
you go right around here and ride about 10 minutes you’re in the bay and another
10 minutes, you get to a point on a slightly cloudy day
you can’t see land. I mean it’s huge. You know there’s just
so much water here. It’s very much a part of things. The Patuxent River Naval Air Base near
Pat wasn’t listed in the Department of Defense’s official report of those
401 bases suspected of releasing PFAS. However Navy documents show levels of PFAS
in the groundwater at roughly 16 times higher than the
EPA’s lifetime health advisory. The Patuxent River Naval Air Base said
it wasn’t listed in the main DOD report because its final test results weren’t
made public in time for its publication. The Navy said it didn’t
notify its residents on base because it says it doesn’t affect drinking
water and it’s not nearby residential housing. It has yet to schedule follow
up testing to see if that contaminated groundwater at Site
34 has spread. There is no current plan
to clean up the contamination. We’ve got people living adjacent to
where these buried containers with PFAS were. We’re not
testing their water. Why not? So I wrote a letter. And the response was, you know,
we trust the federal government. We trust the Navy to do what’s right. And it’s signed by a public health
official in the state of Maryland. And that’s not good enough for me. When we asked why the people who
live off-base weren’t notified or didn’t have their water tested, a spokesperson said
it’s because there is a very low risk of exposure. At other bases across the country,
service members are wondering what impact AFFF might have had on them. Reporting by The Military Times has found
some women were told not to get pregnant on base. On another base, 16 cases
of cancer in one family. Now they’re all questioning whether PFAS
in the water was to blame. It’s the multibillion dollar question:
who is ultimately responsible for PFAS contamination and how much would
it cost to clean up? Many place some of the blame on
the EPA for its bureaucracy and out-of-date chemical regulatory system. There’s currently at least, as of last
count, the EPA noted over 600 PFAS chemicals were in active use
in the last decade. And so doing a single chemical
by chemical regulatory approach would take many lifetimes on
that many chemicals. Even the military said the EPA’s lack
of regulation is making it hard to start planning its cleanup program. And while the Pentagon is investing
hundreds of millions in investigations and temporary fixes, it’s just a
Band-Aid for a bigger problem. Coming up with a plan to actually
get rid of PFAS in the environment? That’s where things get tricky. As of June 2019, the military has
no actual plans to clean up the contamination. And at this pace to
even start that process could take years. Not to mention
billions of dollars. For the communities involved, it’s
all moving way too slow. Our regulators need to get their heads out
of the sand and listen to what these people have to say. But to understand the layers of
political and legal drama unfolding today, it’s important to understand
what the U.S. has deemed illegal when
it comes to PFAS. In short, not much. Some states are starting to
develop their own guidelines. But there is no single legally
enforceable drinking water standard for PFAS across the country. The EPA has issued something called a
lifetime health advisory for PFAS at 70 parts per trillion. That’s such a minuscule amount of PFAS,
most people have no frame of reference for how much
that actually is. Think of it this way, 70 parts per
trillion has been likened to a few drops of PFAS in
an Olympic-size swimming pool. Essentially, that’s how much the EPA
says a human can safely drink throughout their lifetime. But it’s just a suggestion, not
a regulation and not legally enforceable. The water near some military bases has
reached levels much higher than the EPA’s health advisory. In Louisiana, PFAS levels have reached
more than 10 million parts per trillion. The military isn’t denying
its role spreading AFFF. When we reached out to the Pentagon
for comment a spokesperson said the department takes its
cleanup responsibilities seriously. The EPA said it would propose
a regulatory determination for PFOA and PFOS by the end of the year and
that it’s in the process of listing PFOA and PFOS as hazardous
substances under CERCLA. But as it stands now,
different states have different rules. And depending on those rules, the military
may have to spend a lot more money to clean things up. In Oscoda alone, the Air Force
has already spent millions on PFAS. We’ve invested $88.9 million at Wurtsmith. And
the PFOS/PFOA to date is $14.9 million. And we anticipate the
cleanup activities at Wurtsmith costing another $190 million. That’s just one single base out of
the more than 400 and counting. There’s another layer of complexity
when it comes to U.S. military bases. Something called sovereign immunity. In 2018 the Air Force claimed it
after the state of Michigan tried to enforce stricter cleanup guidelines. It’s difficult to challenge the
military politically, legally and otherwise. In New Mexico, the state environmental
department and the Air Force are suing each other over PFAS cleanup. And then there’s the question of
what responsibility lies with the producers and manufacturers. Two of the military’s AFFF
suppliers are Tyco and Chemguard. A spokesperson for the companies said
that while there’s no reliable evidence that PFAS cause illness at
levels humans are generally exposed to, they support continued
research on the compounds. And that they’ve transitioned to what some
see as a less dangerous version of the compound, though that’s up
for debate in the scientific community. In 2018, roughly 100 lawsuits over
AFFF were consolidated in South Carolina. As of July 2019, that
multi district litigation is still pending. PFAS isn’t a household term yet. But Congress has taken notice to
what’s going on, particularly on military bases. This session alone lawmakers have introduced
at least 20 bills that address PFAS. But even with regulations in place for
lead, the Flint water crisis is still playing out five years later. And when it comes to PFAS, many
states aren’t even testing for it yet. Behind the scenes, DOD has been pushing
the EPA to loosen its PFAS cleanup standards from the existing 70 part
per trillion threshold to 380 parts per trillion. That’s nearly six times
the existing health advisory. And that could save the Pentagon a lot
of money when it comes time to actually form a cleanup plan. Meanwhile the Department of Defense is
still pouring millions into research and investigations, much of which it
says will take years to finish. Testing is ongoing and I think we’re
still learning more about the extent of that contamination and how it
may be impacting surrounding communities. These communities, I’m gonna say they’re
going to pop up, they already exist. It’s just a matter of finding them. They’re going to happen over and
over and over and over. So what happens when a town
finds out its water is toxic? I lived in the town. We drank from the river, right there,
out there where the foam is. In many cases, it’s up to the
communities themselves to uncover the damage that’s been done. In another video we’ll meet with some
citizens who were tired of waiting for officials to tell them what’s going
on, so they’re doing their own digging.




Comments
  1. These chemicals are pretty much harmless as far as I know. I have worked with them before and I really don't see how they would be harmless for people. Not sure if they might mess with some smaller organisms but don't really see how.

    There is definitely way worse pollution going on than this.

    There is a lot of anecdotal evidence in this not a lot more. A ton of people were in contact with this stuff and the military probably wasn't even the biggest contributor in spreading the compound.
    Sorry but a couple of cases of cancer prove nothing.

  2. Holy shit…did you see all the dots in Michigan? 1:07 …I'm from Michigan and travel around the whole state for work and vacations…that's scary stuff

  3. "I didn't sign up to be poisoned, i signed up to serve my country" "cough cough" agent orange during Vietnam lol

  4. Wont it be really meta if in the future they found out something commonly used now was actually toxic as hell? Anyone remember what heroin and thalidomide once were?

  5. I grew up off of NAS Pensacola, Saufley Field. Turns out the well water I grew up on since I was born was poisoned by the navy. Go figure.

  6. "It's not important to me because it doesn't affect me or my immediate family right now. I'm sure the government will clean this up. It's obviously not that serious because I don't see it on the nightly news." -we all know this person😒

  7. Mans served 3 years and is called a veteran. 🤦🏽‍♂️ Try at least 8 years. 26 years should not even be compared to 3.

  8. I see what you did there
    1:43 Now, communities are wondering what it means for their health, and their homes, and who's responsible to clean it up.

  9. Of course JB MDL in NJ is listed. I'm about 12 miles from there. Wonder if that's another reason why people are so concerned with the Trenton water .. probably not.

  10. Not only the military. All airports used it. Nearly all firefighters used it. Anywhere you would practice putting out fuel fires. There was so much of that crap produced, its literally everywhere. Its not only in AFFF foam, its everywhere. Research it. Its gets pretty obvious why we have cancer and birth defects all over the place from the 50s on.

  11. Imagine trusting the US military to do the right thing. What a wild delusion. Besides, the Pentagon only gets about $1 trillion a year so how can they afford a few billion to clean up their mess?

  12. Yea because 45 built up the military you people are going to attack it. Mmmkay you do know that the people do not believe you anymore right?

  13. Not just bases in the USA. There's towns all over Australia with poison water and probably in many other countries.

  14. Military pollution of water?

    Provocation. Illegal provocation. USA provocation with the USS Boxer (LHD-4), a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship of the United States Navy. In international waters near Iran.

    This terrorism by the USA is aimed at creating global instability. Provoking Iran into a war. Serving own corporate greed to maintain a monopoly on world trade.

    Iran hasn’t invaded anyone or, indeed, started a war in more than 150 years! The USA regime says Iran must stop it's aggression. Iran must stop it's aggression?

    The fact is, the USA, with Israel and Saudi Arabia are the aggressive provocative forces against a country that hasn't run nor launched an aggressive war in modern history, unlike the US or Israel.

    But maybe the argument is that Iran's efforts to defend itself against the Trump USA regime's arrogance and provocation is unacceptable aggression.

    In May last year, the Trump regime unilaterally withdrew from the working and successful JCPOA and issued 12 demands to Iran. It was one of those impossible lists, designed to provoke and humiliate. To posture. To use its military power as a global Reality Show ego booster. To distract from being the global village idiot 'president'. Recently better described as the Occupant.

    Israel? Israeli possession of both nuclear and chemical weapons is avoided by the USA regime as if it is so normal as locker talk. Where does Israel's capabilities come from? From Russia? No. From China? No. Follow the trail of MONEY! Israel built its nuclear weapons from 'smuggled' parts and 'pilfered technology'. Assisted smuggling. Assisted pilferation.

    Response? "We encourage Israel to become a state party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT]." Yes. Encouragement! ENCOURAGEMENT!

    Israel, unlike Iran, never signed up to the 1968 NPT so it could not violate it. But it certainly broke the treaty banning nuclear tests, as well as countless national and international laws restricting the traffic in nuclear materials and technology. But that isn't a problem – they didn't break any of the conditions of any treaty because that haven't signed any treaty!

    Who is the rogue state? Who is the sponsor of this rogue state? No, Israel's 400 nuclear warheads isn't aggression! Do you live near to this daily(!) intimidation and threat?

  15. I was there back when I was in the Navy in the 90’s, when I went to DC – Damage Control Fire Fighting 🔥 School several times. Both at Great Lakes, IL and in San Diego, CA. As for fighting fires, AFFF was awesome at smothering and putting out fires 🔥. Health issues related to its contamination of drinking water sources, well that’s another story and the very obvious one in the video. Anyway, this stuff is all over the oceans of the world as well, though it be very diluted in concentration in the oceans of the world combined. Always and no matter where you live, do your self a favor and put a Under-sink RO-Reverse Osmosis System on your Home Kitchen drinking water, you’ll thank me one day.

  16. Truth scarier than fiction see why we all want answers from the government we all be scared shitless if we New everything

  17. Only the one percentera don’t have pfass only 99 % of americans everybody except the super rich same with the conpound found in DuPont Teflon non stick pots were fuked food poison water poison everything is against us

  18. Very important environmental topic regarding firefighting chemical that too much of it leaked into important natural water sources.

  19. Regarding Australia's military changing to a safer alternative chemical. The local ponds, lakes and basins here have already been contaminated, so the damage has already been done. We noticed that a couple of years ago, the military base placed signs not to fish/swim in local still water ponds and lakes. It wasn't until 6 months later, I read in the news that firefighting contaminates have been polluting and accumulating in the water for decades! They reported that local residents who have lived there for decades were developing cancer.

  20. Kind of ironic. Spray agent orange all over Vietnam.Then find out that you were also being sprayed with chemicals right here in the good old U.S.A.

  21. How is any of this surprising? Look at every facet of this country… it’s game over. Empire has fallen. Time to save yourself

  22. Here is a link to the interactive map to see if your home is affected…https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/2019_pfas_contamination/map/

    NBC – It would be nice if you guys added links to this stuff in your video description.

  23. So, once again a chemical composition that does not break down in the environment is at the heart of environmental pollution. Has anyone else noticed this pattern? Also, do not move to Michigan. Wow. That map. Another thought. How often does the military-industrial complex pull this crap? I am all for the defense of the country. Quite frankly it is one of the most important things that the federal government provides. But when the defense of the country causes harm, something is horribly wrong. Pollution is no joke. Toxic waste is worse (not all pollution is a toxic waste). Maybe its time to think of defending the country as first do no harm.

  24. For the record, if 190 million is the base total for the clean up (which it's clearly not since the speaker said they'd need that much _more_), it will cost approximately (but probably more than) 76.7 billion to clean up. Just wow.

  25. I thought there was a regulatory trigger to require PFAS warnings. They happen from time to time here in some Michigan communities. Ann Arbor had a few "no fish" warnings last year. I live a little ways away from Ann Arbor and I know nearby communities warn of PFAS plumes, but I guess I can't rely on local governments to tell me if my water is safe or not anymore.

    They need to declare an emergency over this. Relocate people if they can't guarantee their health and safety after this.

    It honestly sounds like half the responsibility lies with the manufacturer for not doing sufficient testing, and the other half for the military considering their negligent use.

  26. At least this is a American only problem that we can work to solve if other countries are utilizing it you can be sure they couldnt careless about getting you involved.

  27. AND THIS IS GOING ON IN 1000S OF BASES AROUND THE WORLD. USA environmental watch dog has shown a report that USA military is the WORLDS LARGEST SINGLE POLLUTER! What about the 100s of Pacific Islands that the USA used for nuclear tests (100 per year) and are now massive leaking toxic dumps, plus plus plus = USA is a criminal regime!

  28. If more than one lady claims abuse it’s likely true you don’t need a dozen or a hundred to prove a guy is slime 2 or more is enough for me

  29. The military needs to clean up there mess. And stop pulling the blinds over the problem. Take responsibility. The American public didn't do it. But where the one's suffering over it. Remember dont eat the fish. That is a bad thing to say . Think about the great lakes. Look how close it is to lake Huron. And the au sable feeds right in to lake huron. There are warnings not to eat the fish that mit stay in the river. Like blue gill and or pan fish of any kind. Great place to fish. I know just left the area. Got lot of pictures of good size fish .

  30. saying you should not drink more than 70 parts per trillion (ppt) is like saying you should drink a maximum of 5% Alcohol in your lifetime. Ppt is just like per cent, so it's a relative scale which can be used to set limits on how contaminated drinking water is allowed to be. However if you want a limit on how much you can safely consume you'd need an absolute scale (basically saying you can drink x kg of 70ppt contaminated water = x*70*10^-9kg)

  31. This is the human actions and inactions that will be the end of our current civilization. So smart and yet so ignorant. religion and politics.
    Still try to have hope.

  32. can't they train with some dummy chemical that might not work as well, but can be released without worry so they can do that basic training… and save that gold star cancer causing stuff for the real deal where it's acutely needed?

  33. I just moved to Louisiana and staid at the Air Force base for 2 weeks and I noticed right away that there was something wrong with the water and being pregnant I worried a lot about what’s in it. Vegas water isn’t the best in the US but there’s something clearly wrong in Louisiana

  34. While your occupied by this. Look up and see how they spraying us with worst chemicals above us everyday but no one cares about it.

  35. Let's not forget contaminated water at Camp Lejeune that caused service members & their dependents 15 different cancers!!

  36. Growing up in Oscoda, being a airman's child… we were always told to limit our time in lake ven ettan and do not eat anything out of it… they told us cuz of the airforce letting chemicals into the lake. what i'd really like to know.. if it was common knowlege in 1995 then why was in not untill after 2010 that ppl were told not to drink the ground water

  37. There's a Multi million dollar law suit that's on going now at the Williams town air force base and airport at williams town nsw Australia cancer causing products from fire fighters form

  38. Hhhmm looks like a lot of time, effort and money had been put into pointing a finger at the military and in making them look negligent. In which the government would have to pay restitution. Instead of using the finger to point blame, use it to find a way to chemically solve the problem. Or how about moving away from that area. Or don't reenlist. You the crybabies can do something about it if you want to. But you would rather point the finger and cry victim while sitting on the couch watching the Kardashians. God Bless America. You lazy people looking for a hand-out are what makes this country what it is!

  39. It already has. Only a handful of states even test for it. Only took a few years for it to come out. Damm those municipal water heads are poisoning you. Here they have known for years. Flint all over but nation wide.

  40. Very simple, quit spending money on the clean up, just take a vile of all the chemicals at the amount that they say is safe and inject each politician, and company executive, and their families with it monthly. If they are fine, then we are fine. When their family member start dropping dead, and their body parts start falling off, they will figure it out.

  41. The best part about Canadian Military is that they aren't required to track any environmental damage they cause if it happened outside of Canada! So our Navy has naturally never had an oil spill…

  42. Theyonly got sovereign immunity on the land ceded to them but if what they do leaks out onto state land ain't they responsible legally

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