PFAS Contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, CaliforniaOctober 9, 2023
Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia PFAS ContaminationOctober 10, 2023
A 2017 EPA report on China Lake Naval Base PFAS contamination involving the sampling of 11 groundwater wells established that the groundwater at the Base was the most contaminated in history, with seven wells tested positive for PFOA and PFOS ranging from 3,800 – 8,000,000ppt.
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of artificial chemicals used worldwide since the 1940s for industrial purposes such as making coatings, textile production, and manufacturing firefighting foam. These compounds are used for their unique properties, such as repellence to oil, grease, and water and high heat resistance. Unfortunately, they stay in the environment for over a thousand years before they degrade, hence the name “forever chemicals.” The only effective ways to remove these compounds from the environment are granular activated carbon, ion exchange resins, and high-pressure membrane systems.
Studies have shown that PFAS can remain in the human body for up to nine years before completely excreted, increasing the risk of certain health conditions and problems. Some PFAS used in aqueous film-forming foam, including PFOS and PFOA, are found to have adverse health effects on humans, including infertility, liver damage, kidney problems, and cancer.
Stephens and Stephens LLP are investigating cases of China Lake Naval Base PFAS contamination. Contact Hugh Stephen at Stephens and Stephens LLP if you have been diagnosed with these illnesses after living at China Lake Naval Base. Our services are contingency-based, and case evaluation is free.
About the China Lake Naval Base
NAWS China Lake started as a Naval Ordnance Test Station at China Lake in 1943. The initial functions of the Base were rocket development projects, testing of air-launched rocket weapons, and providing primary weaponry training. During the 1992 Navy-wide organizational consolidation and streamlining, the Naval Weapons Center at NAWS China Lake was officially combined with three other Navy activities to form the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division.
The Base functions involve the research, development, testing, evaluation, and in-service engineering of weapons systems, including air warfare exclusive of anti-submarine warfare systems, missiles, aircraft weapons integration, missile subsystems, and assigned airborne electronic warfare systems. Testing and training functions on-station include munitions delivery, tactics, electronic warfare, and Special Forces training. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division also operates and maintains air, land, and sea ranges and manages all station lands while maintaining environmental compliance policies and guidelines.
Military exposure to China Lake Naval Base PFAS contamination
Stephens and Stephens LLP, represents victims of PFAS exposure at military bases countrywide. If you lived at the China Lake Naval Base and were later diagnosed with PFAS-related illnesses, you can file a lawsuit against AFFF manufacturers. Potential defendants in the lawsuit include 3M, Buckeye Fire Equipment, Kidde, The Chemours Company, Chemguard Inc., Tyco Fire Products, National Foam Inc., BASF Corporation, and Dynax Corporation.
According to CDC, PFAS exposure affects the immune system and increases the risk of kidney and liver cancer and damage, pregnancy-related problems, infertility, leukemia, and thyroid disease. PFAS exposure mechanisms include drinking contaminated water, eating fish and other foods with high PFAS levels, eating food packaged in PFAS-containing material, swallowing PFAS-contaminated soil or dust, and through products made of PFAS such as nonstick cookware, water-repellant fabric sprays, and ski wax.
Can you file a PFAS contamination lawsuit against the Department of Defense?
Affected servicemen and women can sue the US government for negligence related to PFAS exposure at military bases, but the “discretionary function immunity” might be a challenge. This is an affirmative defense, with the burden of proof upon the Government to show that it exercised a discretionary function when it acted or failed to act. (Whisnant v. United States (9th Cir.
China Lake Naval Base PFOA and PFOS Site investigation
A site investigation for AOCs was conducted between 2005 and 2008 under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) at the following three areas of concern (AOC) where AFFF was used and stored at the Base:
- AOC 166- Skytop Bay 5 – A large steel, hanger-type building used to test rocket motors.
- AOC 230- Charlie Range PCB Transformer Dump – a soil pad that stores and maintains electrical transformers.
- AOC 235- Salt Wells Burn Area – A former fenced area used for storage of testing
equipment and ordnance-related materials and also for burning related wastes. This
AOC also includes a covered trench containing asbestos and other wastes
The investigation involved soil and groundwater sampling from soil borings or temporary wells. Temporary monitoring wells were also installed at site AOC 235. AOC 166 Skytop Bay 5 (A burn test facility where various rockets were routinely tested or detonated inside a large steel building) PFOS and PFOA were detected in surface and sub-surface soil. Groundwater samples did not show any detectable PFOA and PFOS. Soil and groundwater sampling at AOC 230 Charlie Range PCB Transformer Dump and AOC 235 Salt Wells Burn Area did not indicate the presence of any PFOS and PFOA.
In March 2019, the California State Water Board issued Investigative Orders under the California Water Code, section 13267, to a group of landfill and airport facilities where PFAS were used or where materials suspected of containing PFAS were disposed of to investigate the presence of PFAS (PFAS Investigative Order). The City of Ridgecrest Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) reported the three highest PFOS concentrations in groundwater of all 17 facilities sampled. The highest PFOS concentrations of 1,200 ng/L were reported in well 26S40E13D03, 980 ng/L in well 26S40E14B01, and 920 ng/L in well 26S40E14B01. Researchers believe the industrial discharges from the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station contributed to these elevated PFAS groundwater concentrations at the City of Ridgecrest POTW.
California State Water Board investigation reported the highest PFOS concentration of 7,000 ng/L from influent samples at the Ridgecrest POTW, which receives influent from the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station. California Water Resource Control Board announced PFAS drinking water notification levels of 14ppt (PFOA) and 13ppt (PFOS), recommending that supplies testing above these levels be closed.
NAWS China Lake South Range tested its water for PFAS in November 2020. Samples collected from the installation distribution system and Wells 24 and 25 indicated that the drinking water testing results were below the Method Reporting Limit (MRL) for all 18 PFAS compounds covered by the sampling method, including PFOA and PFOS.
A DOD site investigation at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake involving three firefighting training areas, 39 landfills and disposal sites, one wastewater treatment plant, and 215 other areas of interest reported the highest PFOS and PFOA ever recorded of 8,000,000ppt at the base firefighting training area (site 43).
The NAWS China Lake Office of Public Affairs confirmed that the Base drinking water was free from PFAS contamination. They explained that the contamination was at a depth of 20ft atop a 200ft thick impermeable geological formation. Also, the contaminated site was over 8 miles away from drinking water wells.
The 2020 DOD PFAS policy requires continuous monitoring of drinking for PFAS every three years through water system resampling in all service-owned and operated water systems. According to the EPA advisory, in cases where water samples test for PFAS greater than 70ppt, additional sampling should be conducted to assess the levels, scope, and source of contamination. Recently, the State of California issued a new advisory for notification where PFAS sampling in private drinking water sources exceeds 5.1ppt.
In 2015, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board devised a plan to remove the Municipal and Domestic Supply (MUN) beneficial use designation within the Lahontan region from ground waters within the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. These groundwaters include the groundwater beneath the Salt Wells Valley and the shallow groundwater in the eastern Indian Wells Valley groundwater basin. These two areas are located within the boundaries of the NAWS China Lake.
Honoring our Pact Act of 2022
Over the years, the US military has been exposed to some of the worst chemicals in their line of duty, which have led to health problems and disabilities. In August 2022, the US president signed the Honoring Our Pact Act, which expanded healthcare and benefits for veterans suffering from different conditions from chemical exposure during service. The Act recognizes 20 new presumptive diseases but does not cover PFAS-related illnesses like prostate and thyroid cancer.
Presumptive illnesses under the Act include certain cancers, including brain cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, glioblastoma, head cancers, kidney cancer, lymphatic cancers, lymphomas, melanoma, neck cancer, pancreatic cancer, reproductive cancers, and respiratory cancers.
Other presumptive illnesses include:
- Asthma that was diagnosed after service
- Chronic rhinitis
- Chronic sinusitis
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
- Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
- Granulomatous disease
- Pulmonary fibrosis
Honoring our PACT Act, eligibility is limited to service men and women deployed in specific parts of the world at specified periods.