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EPA conducted the first Chanute Air Force Base drinking water PFAS contamination test in 2014, establishing high PFAS levels, over 100 million times those recommended for drinking water. These tests were carried out in 81 sites within the Base, where most were contaminated with PFAS.

Before it closed, the Chanute Air Force Base was home to over two million service men and women. Those who lived at the Base were exposed to high levels of PFAS and are at an increased risk of developing PFAS-related illnesses and cancers. Stephens and Stephens LLP are investigating cases os PFOA and PFOS exposure at the Chanute Air Force Base. Our fees are contingency-based.

Chanute Air Force Base drinking water PFAS Contamination

During the PFAS testing concluded in 2014, the Air Force environment team detected PFOS and PFOA at Chanute Air Force, exceeding the EPA’s EPA’s lifetime health advisory limit in eight areas. The Chanute Air Force Base drinking water PFAS contamination results showed PFAS levels a million times those recommended by the EPA, with the highest indicating 644,000 parts per trillion.

PFOA and PFOS were also confirmed at the former Base fire training grounds where PFOA/PFOS-based AFFF was used to train and put out emergency fires. The sampling at the Base also confirmed that the PFOA and PFOS were detected in shallow groundwater but had not migrated to drinking water sources.

A preliminary assessment, completed in 2016, involved the review of former AFFF storage and areas at the Base, including crash and aircraft fire sites.

In 2017, the Air Force conducted wider testing, including local drinking water and aquifers. Some groundwater samples three to fifteen feet deep tested positive for PFAS. The rock layer separating the groundwater from the drinking water was also tested, and the results passed the EPA advisory standards.

The site inspection sampling conducted between 2014 and 2017 at the Wisconsinan shallow groundwater involved 49 new and existing monitoring wells. All the Wisconsinan samples showed PFOS or PFOA above the EPA advisory levels. Groundwater sampling at eight Illinoisan monitoring wells showed no PFOS/PFOA. Soil sampling was also conducted at 81 soil-boring locations, and 67 sites had PFOS and PFOA levels exceeding the EPA advisory limits.

During the PFAS testing concluded in 2017, at the nine co-located surface water and sediment locations at Salt Fork Creek, all the samples showed high PFOA and PFOS levels. Stormwater was also sampled for PFOA/PFOS at 41 stormwater manholes, with 40 locations testing positive for the compounds.

PFOS and PFOA were also detected in Landfill two leachate pumped from the collection system under the landfill. The landfill is next to the Fire Training Area, where AFFF was used, and groundwater flows towards the landfill. The landfill two leachate is treated with granular activated carbon to trap these toxins before the water is released to the Village of Rantoul publicly owned treatment works (POTW).

About the Chanute Air Base

Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois, is one of the oldest Air Force facilities. It began operations in 1917 and closed in September 1993. The Base was established in Champaign County, Illinois, south of Rantoul, Illinois, during World War I as a pilot training facility. It was briefly closed after the war and later reopened as a technical training center for recruits, with fire protection training transferred to the site in 1964 until its closure.

Between 1922 and 1938, the Base was a training school for all Air Corps mechanics, mainly focusing on the operation and maintenance of military aircraft and ground support equipment. During World War II, the Base was used to train the military on aircraft maintenance and metal processing, which were terminated in 1971. The Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended the closure in 1988. Activities relating to the Base use and waste disposal led to water and soil contamination.

The Base is a superfund site, and clean-up for volatile organic compounds, among other contaminants in drinking water, soils, and air, is ongoing. PFAS, including PFOS and PFOA, are major contaminants at the Chanute Air Force Base. These forever chemicals originated from decades of using PFAS-based aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) in firefighting training at the Base.

PFAS and health risks

PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of nearly 15,000 synthetic organofluorine chemical compounds with multiple fluorine atoms attached to an alkyl chain. The six most prevalent PFAS in drinking water include  PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, PFNA, PFHpA, and PFDA. They are used to manufacture a wide range of products such as clothes, plastic, carpets, non-sticking cooking ware, food packaging items, and electrical wire insulation.

Until recently, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) were used to manufacture AFFF. PFOS and PFOA have certain qualities that make them effective for putting out high heat-intensive fires such as gasoline and chemicals. These two compounds do not break down and can move through the soil, contaminating groundwater sources. Since the human body cannot break down or eliminate these toxins, they accumulate over time, leading to certain health problems.

Diseases linked to PFOA and PFAS exposure include problems with growth and development, liver and kidney diseases, thyroid-related illnesses, infertility, and fetal development problems. They also suppress immunity and increase the risk of certain cancers, including testicular, kidney, and thyroid.

AFFF  has been linked to certain cancers, including kidney cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, bladder cancer, leukemia, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgin’s lymphoma, male breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer.

Those who lived at the Chanute Air Force Base for at least a year and were later diagnosed with PFAS-related illnesses could be eligible for compensation. These include military service men and women, civilians, and their families. If you are a victim of AFFF-PFAS contact Hugh at Stephens and Stephens LLP for a free case evaluation.

US Military at an increased risk of cancer

A new study commissioned by Congress in 2021 confirms an increasing cancer rate among the military. The study involved IM service members who worked or flew military aircraft between 1992 and 2017. These findings established that military pilots and their assisting ground crew were at a higher risk of developing different types of cancer than the general population.

According to the findings, the aircrew rate of melanoma was 87% higher, and that of female breast cancer was 16% higher. Also, male aircrews were 16% more likely to develop prostate cancer. The rate of brain cancer and cancer of the nervous system was 19% higher among the ground crew, thyroid cancer at 15%, and kidney and renal cancers at 9%.

The study was conducted to determine the incidence and mortality of ten cancers among the Air Force fighter aviators and backseat aircrew and how it differed from the general population and other Air Force officers. Similar findings have been reported in studies conducted in Bulgaria and Sweden. The link between military aviation and this increased cancer risk is unclear. However, the US military has been exposed to a wide range of known carcinogens over the years.


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