ATLANTA (AP) — Groundwater near Georgia military bases remains contaminated from a toxic firefighting foam used for decades by the U.S. Air Force, prompting fears among residents about their exposure to the chemicals.
Recent tests at Georgia’s three air bases show extensive environmental contamination of groundwater, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Environmentalists say that contamination from the foam exposed Georgia communities to chemicals linked to cancer and a variety of other health problems.
The Air Force has said Georgia’s drinking water is safe for people living around its installations.
But experts and nearby residents question those findings, saying the military’s review was too narrow and failed to test water off-base.
In Georgia, 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 and 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 newspaper reported.
A series of site inspection reports completed by the Air Force last year concluded that despite high levels of groundwater pollution, there was no immediate risk to human health via contamination of drinking water.
That claim was met with skepticism, particularly in rural areas where many people rely on wells for drinking and irrigation.
“Everything in this area depends on groundwater,” said John Quarterman, the Suwannee Riverkeeper in Lowndes County, where Moody is located.
Tests of Moody’s drinking wells showed no reportable contamination. The base celebrated the fact that its drinking water had been deemed safe, emphasizing that its wells plunge down more than 400 feet into a protected aquifer.
But local residents say their wells don’t go nearly as deep, and the county public water system has not been tested for the chemicals.