A potentially hazardous and toxic chemical has been discovered in groundwater wells within and around the Navy airfield on Whidbey Island, Washington, contaminating the area water supply and raising serious health concerns. Residents have been warned of cancer and other risks from drinking the water coming from these now-polluted wells.
The Navy has tested more than 170 Whidbey Island wells so far, finding dangerous levels of poisonous chemicals originating in aviation firefighting foam (utilized by airstrip crews training for potential crashes) well above EPA safety guidelines. As reported by The Seattle Times, “residents who got the bad news have expressed worry, and sometimes anger, as they learn their well water is suddenly off-limits. And as they think about all the water they’ve been drinking for years, homeowners now are researching the health risks – including some types of cancer – linked to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances – or PFAS.”
These man-made chemicals have been used in a wide range of products, including carpets, food wrappers and nonstick cookware manufacturing. Whidbey Island is not the only location where water contamination from wells occurs. Other military bases and industrial sites, like one in Issaquah, have experienced this sort of well pollution issue as well. Nonetheless, these toxins “may linger in the environment for thousands of years,” according to The Seattle Times. Wells and other water sources around Naval and Air Force bases across the U.S. have faced similar contamination from PFAs as well, including in Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
“We wanted to immediately assess whether there was an impact on our neighbors,” said Dina Ginn, a Navy official involved in the Whidbey Island area testing program. “We take our stewardship role of the environment very seriously.”
Health risks from the contaminated water supply include: kidney and testicular cancer, liver tissue damage, thyroid disease, adverse effects on the immune system, and developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or breastfed infants, such as low birth weight, accelerated puberty and unusual and potentially dangerous skeletal variations.
Navy officials are working to find new sources of drinking water for residents, as well as adding filtration systems that would bring the toxic chemical concentration levels below the EPA advisory limits. They are also conducting water testing over an expanded area to target additional problem wells. Though news articles note Navy officials have been paying for water contamination tests and bottled drinking water, there has been no acknowledgement that airfield operations were responsible for PFAS or PFC pollution in the first place.
If you or a family member are a veteran or local resident and suspect you may suffer from injuries possibly relating to water contaminated by PFC or PFASs, we urge you to contact us about your case through the case page or by calling 1 800 541-7358. There is no charge or obligation for our review of your injury lawsuit.
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Lieff Cabraser is at the forefront of environmental lawsuits prosecuting cases against many of the world’s most powerful corporations, obtaining compensation for families and property owners harmed by toxic environmental exposures. Our notable successes include the co-representation of 69 families in Toms River, New Jersey with children whose cancer was linked to environmental contamination caused by Ciba, Union Carbide, and United Water Resources; work as co-lead Class Counsel in a suit against Unocal arising from a series of toxic releases from Unocal’s refinery in Rodeo, California and leading to a settlement of $80 million on behalf of 10,000 individuals; and our work as co-lead counsel in the nationwide class action against DuPont charging that its herbicide Imprelis caused widespread death among trees and other non-targeted vegetation across the U.S. where approximately $400 million was paid to 25,000 claimants.