Contaminated Groundwater, a Toxic Legacy of Georgia’s Air Bases

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For decades, the United States Air Force used a toxic firefighting foam that contaminated water near bases and exposed communities to chemicals linked to cancer and a variety of other health problems.

Recent tests at Georgia’s three air bases show extensive environmental contamination of groundwater caused by the foam.

Despite Air Force assurances that Georgia’s drinking water is safe for the thousands of people living around its installations, experts and neighboring residents are questioning those findings, claiming the military’s review was too narrow and failed to test any water off-base.

“Given that there are concentrations of these compounds on site, over time they’re going to move off of the site. That’s just common sense,” said Jamie DeWitt, an associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at East Carolina University. “No contaminant obeys property lines.”

In more than a dozen other states, the Air Force has acknowledged contaminating drinking water in communities close to its bases.

Over the years, Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Cobb County, Robins Air Force Base in Houston County and Moody Air Force Base in Lowndes County used the firefighting foam in training exercises and to put out fires when planes crashed. The foam also sometimes leaked out of its storage tanks.

All told, thousands of gallons of foam soaked into the ground or washed into creeks and wetlands, killing fish and imperiling those who use the affected waterways for fishing, swimming and boating.

The contamination, which is linked to a class of chemicals known collectively as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, was laid out in a series of site inspection reports completed by the Air Force last year.

Meris Lutz

Read entire article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution