Nationwide, PFAS seeping from military bases, factories, and airports

Laura Paskus

October 27, 2020

Here in New Mexico, activities at Holloman and Cannon Air Force bases have contaminated groundwater with PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The Pentagon has also identified five other military sites that may have polluted local waters with PFAS.   

But PFAS contamination isn’t just a problem in New Mexico. The toxic chemicals have seeped out of factories, Naval bases, and airports around the nation. And the world.  

In Washington, the Navy sampled 292 wells near Naval Base Kitsap—finding that 83 of those wells had PFAS contamination. According to the story in The Olympian: “The Navy said residents who get drinking water from affected wells will be provided with an indefinite supply of bottled water until the Navy can provide a long-term solution. The Navy did not provide a timeline for a resolution.” 

In Michigan, effluent from Tribar Manufacturing, a plating company, was being released into the Huron River, via the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant—at levels up to 1,400 parts per trillion. After a state investigation revealed the source of the pollution, it required the company to install filtration systems—and the levels dropped down to six parts per trillion  

There are no federal regulations for PFAS, though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set a lifetime health advisory for the two of the toxic chemicals within the family of substances at 70 parts per trillion.  

According to the Michigan Public Radio story: “Companies do not have to monitor and disclose their PFAS discharges, but once it's discovered they are discharging PFAS chemicals over the state limit, they are expected to work cooperatively with state officials to lower the discharges to meet the limit. 

Meanwhile. Michigan regulators are also looking into whether residents in the northern part of the state have been drinking water contaminated with PFAS. They’re planning to test about 20 homes, as well as irrigation wells. Those homes were near the Cherry Capital Airport and the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station. And in Flint, testing showed that one type of PFAS was present at levels exceeding 100,000 parts per trillion in soil and water at an abandoned General Motors property. According to the story at, “As early as 2018, testing on the property showed PFAS moving through the storm sewer system into the river, which the city of Flint used for its drinking water source in parts of 2014 and 2015.” 

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that the state’s Department of Natural Resources has formed a new team—one to specifically address PFAS contamination from Tyco Fire Products. From the story: “Multiple programs within the Wisconsin DNR have been involved in efforts to investigate the extent of contamination in the Marinette and Peshtigo area, according to Darsi Foss, administrator of the agency's environmental management division. Foss said PFAS contamination linked to Tyco has resulted in concerns over a variety of media or environmental surroundings, including water, fish, and wildlife.” 

In North Carolina, the Coastal Online Review notes that even though Chemours has stopped releasing its wastewater into the Cape Fear River, PFAS are still present in the water. According to the story, “Authority officials and researchers say the primary source of PFAS entering the river comes from contaminated groundwater at the Fayetteville plant, sediment between the intake and the facility, and air emissions.” 

Ry Rivard with the Adirondack Explorer reports that the state of New York has designated the Adirondack Regional Airport a hazardous waste site, due to PFAS contamination. The toxic chemicals have shown up in drinking water at the airport and a nearby mobile home community.  

Bloomberg Law looks at what effect New York’s new PFAS drinking water regulations—which are stricter than the federal government’s health advisory for the toxic chemicals—could have as polluters are required to investigate and clean up contaminated soils and waters.  

“Due to the ubiquitous nature of PFAS in the environment” and the low cleanup levels, they expect studies and remediation to prompt new remediation projects. In addition, they say companies will have to manage the liabilities and anticipate risks. And, they add, with more regulations likely on the way: “Those well-prepared for the transition will be positioned to prosper from it, while those who are not will fall behind or find their business plans or goals outdated or not fully achievable.

If you’ve been affected by PFAS contamination in your community here in New Mexico, call our tip line at (505) 433-7242. To read more coverage of PFAS in New Mexico visit “Groundwater War: New Mexico’s Toxic Threat,” which includes a timeline of events and studies on PFAS.