Newly-released documents show Navy knew about spread of PFAS

Laura Paskus

November 24, 2020

We just released the second in a series of videos about PFAS contamination from military bases in New Mexico. This one focuses on the health impacts from PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.  

If you missed the first video, “Why care about PFAS?” you can watch that on our site, Groundwater War: New Mexico’s Toxic Threat 

Don Hopey at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on a talk that “Dark Waters” attorney Rob Bilott gave recently about PFAS: 

Mr. Bilott, a former corporate attorney whose battle with DuPont about pervasive PFAS contamination in Parkersburg, W.Va., inspired the recent movie “Dark Waters,” believes efforts to control the next generation of “forever chemicals” will go faster and be more successful.  

“There’s now a much broader public awareness out there because communities are sharing stories and recognizing they are seeing similar problems. And that points to how important public involvement is,” Mr. Bilott said in a speech to about 100 people virtually attending the Women For a Healthy Environment’s 10th anniversary program Wednesday evening. 

In North Carolina, Greg Barnes reported that the year-old Pittsboro Drinking Water Task Force wants the town to provide residents with discounted filtration systems until it finds a permanent solution to the presence of PFAS and other cancer-causing compounds in drinking water. From the story: 

Earlier this year, the PFAS Testing Network, a consortium of researchers from seven North Carolina universities, released data showing total PFAS at Pittsboro’s drinking water intake measuring 844 parts per trillion. That was the highest level discovered by the network after an initial sampling of 320 municipal water treatment plants throughout the state.  

Meanwhile, a new Duke University study found that the concentrations of PFAS in Pittsboro residents’ blood are two to four times higher than the U.S. population as a whole. 

In New York, newly released data show that the U.S. Navy did not tell the public that it knew PFAS were present at the southern boundary of the former Grumman manufacturing site in Calverton. From the Riverhead Local story by Denise Civiletti: 

Detection of the chemicals at the southern boundary of the site is significant, because it supports the position of elected officials, environmental advocates and community members that the chemicals could migrate offsite and pose a risk to private drinking water wells in the area and the Peconic River. 

The Navy had not previously disclosed the data on PFAS chemicals in samples taken at the fence line system dating back to December 2017 — and in one instance, September 2016. 

A Navy representative at an April 17, 2018 community meeting did reference sampling for PFAS at the fence line in the months prior to the meeting but did not provide the test results data. 

And in The Guardian, Oliver Milman reported that PFAS—which is present within the blood of millions of Americans—might reduce the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines: 

Research led by [Philippe Grandjean, an adjunct professor of environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health] has found that children exposed to PFAS had significantly reduced antibody concentrations after given tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations. A follow-up study of adult healthcare workers found similar results. Meanwhile, a certain type of PFAS, called perfluorobutyrate (or PFBA), accumulates in the lungs and can heighten the severity of illness suffered by people who are infected with Covid-19, separate research by Grandjeanyet to be peer-reviewed, has suggested. 

As we noted earlier this year, a study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Science and Technology Letters estimates that 200 million Americans could have PFAS in their drinking water at levels of one part per trillion or more.   

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.