Chemical contamination discovered in water supply at North Carolina military base… experts warn this could be the first of many

Water, when contaminated, can sometimes cause disease — even death. This is what a small Eastern North Carolina community in the Atlantic found out too late. The community, which has less than 600 residents, tested positive for cancer-causing chemicals perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). These are used to make products more stain-resistant, waterproof, and nonstick. They are found in household products like cookware, carpets, food packaging, and clothes.

The Navy, in an effort to protect the residents, is now providing bottled water to the area. And just to make sure the water is safe, it is testing more than 250 wells near the Marine Corps Outlying Landing Field Atlantic.

That’s not the only problem this part of North Carolina is facing. It’s also dealing with air and water pollution issues from GenX, a chemical the company Chemours created to replace PFOA. Chemours spilled GenX into the Cape Fear River for years. The river supplies drinking water to residents from Fayetteville to Wilmington.

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limited the amount of the chemicals in drinking water, saying that it brought problems like low birth weight, early puberty, cancer, and liver, immune, and thyroid disease.

In a 2016 document, the Defense Department named 393 installations known or are suspected of being contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals. This included six North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, Cherry Point, Charlotte Air National Guard Base, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, and Stanly County Airport. This prompted the government to spend over $800,000 to look into the problems in these areas.

The issue is not limited to North Carolina alone. The Navy is conducting tests and cleanup at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station near Seattle, at the former Warminster Naval Air Warefare Center and the former Naval Air Station Willow Grove near Philadelphia and other facilities all over the U.S. (Related: Now Detroit is dealing with toxic chemicals in the drinking water.)

The Department of Defense said that as of August 31, 2017, the military departments tested over 2,600 groundwater wells in 90 installations for the presence of harmful chemicals. Heather Babb, a Department of Defense spokesman, said in an e-mail that 1,621 of these 2,600 groundwater wells were positive for PFOS/PFOA.

The harmful effects of water contamination can put you and your family’s health at risk. So it’s wise act and check water contamination before it claims more lives. Here’s what you can do:

  •  Never pour fat from cooking or any other type of fat, oil, or grease down the sink. Have a “fat jar” handy to collect the fat and solid waste.
  • Don’t pour household chemicals or cleaning agents down the sink or toilet.
  •  Refrain from flushing pills, liquid, or powder medications, tissues, wrappers, dust cloths and other paper items down the toilet bowl. Throw them in a wastebasket.
  •  Save on power and water by turning on the dishwasher only you have a full load.
  •  Never dispose pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, motor oil, or other automotive fluids into the sanitary sewer or storm sewer systems. They’ll end up in the river.

These preventive measures may be simple. But they can prevent disease, or even save lives.

Read to learn more.

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