Joint Base Lewis McChord PFAS Contamination in Drinking Water
October 9, 2023
PFAS Contamination at China Lake Naval Base, California
October 9, 2023
Joint Base Lewis McChord PFAS Contamination in Drinking Water
October 9, 2023
PFAS Contamination at China Lake Naval Base, California
October 9, 2023

PFAS Contamination at Camp Pendleton, California, was among the highest in the country. In 2017, a drinking water well (Well 330925) at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton tested for very high PFAS of 820 ppt, way higher than the Environmental Protection Agency advisory levels. Other PFAS detected during the analysis include PFBS, PFHpA, PFHxA, PFHxS, and PFNA. One hundred sixty-two samples tested positive for PFAS out of the 207 tested. The base gets drinking water from groundwater wells located at the Base. It has two drinking water systems: the Northern and Southern. The entire facility receives water from these two sources except for San Mateo Point housing, which receives its drinking water from the South Coast Water District.

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton frequently used AFFF in high-volume live fire training in the middle of the installation. The base officials deny the theory that the contamination might have resulted from the base’s military activities, saying it occurred from old industrial contamination from sites to the northwest in Orange County. The PFAS contamination was established at Orange County Groundwater Basin, primarily via the Santa Ana River (SAR), which infiltrates the basin. Several wells in the North were also shut down due to high PFAS limits. Orange County has detected high levels of PFAS in its drinking water supplies, resulting in a lawsuit seeking hundreds of millions of dollars from the leading manufacturers of PFAS-based AFFF. The largest manufacturer of AFFF 3M agreed to pay $10.3 billion to settle water system contamination lawsuits.

PFOA and PFOS are linked to specific health problems, including kidney, testicular, liver, and thyroid cancer. Stephens and Stephens LLP are investigating PFAS contamination cases at military bases. Contact us if you or your loved one suffers from a PFAS-related illness after living at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

2022/2023 Sampling of PFAS Contamination at Camp Pendleton

The 2017 Camp Pendleton water quality report established a combined PFOA and PFOS of 84ppt in one Southern Water System well used for drinking water. The well was closed for further remedial investigation.

A 2022 Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton water quality report established the presence of high levels of PFAS in the base drinking water. The Northern water system sampling indicated the presence of PFOS ranging from 17 to 25ppt, averaging 22ppt. PFOA contamination average was 3ppt, with results going from non-detected to 5.1ppt. Other PFAS found in the Northern water supply system are Perfluorobutanesulfonic Acid (PFBS) of average 7.5ppt, ranging from 4.6 to 9.8 ppt, Perfluorobutanesulfonic Acid (PFHXS) ranging from 16 to 28 ppt, average 22 ppt.

Analysis for the Southern water system established an average PFOS of 7ppt, ranging between non-detectable to 23ppt, PFOA  average was 2ppt results ranging from non-detectable to 6.6 ppt. Perfluorobutanesulfonic Acid (PFBS) was also detected, with the highest being 8.5 ppt, Perfluorobutanesulfonic Acid (PFHXS) 19 ppt, Perfluorobutanesulfonic Acid (PFHpA) 4.2ppt and Perfluorobutanesulfonic Acid (PFHxA) 4.4 ppt.

Marine Corps Base Camp, Pendleton, drinking groundwater sources, are on-base. As a result, activities on the Base can potentially introduce contaminants into drinking water supplies, affecting the health of thousands. Also, water run-off from storms and other activities can deposit contaminants into rivers that recharge the installation’s aquifers.

Drinking water is drawn from groundwater wells located on the Base. At the Southern System, the water at the well is pumped through a treatment plant to remove naturally occurring iron, manganese, and dissolved solids. The treatment involves the addition of chlorine and the reduction of corrosion. Treated water is then pumped into storage tanks and directed to the taps.

About the Marine Corps Base

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is one of the largest Marine Corps bases in the United States. The Base has about 70,000 military and civilian personnel working aboard the installation daily, and 38,000 military family members live there. Nearly 60,000 service members train at the Base, with over 35,000 assigned to work there.

The Base occupies about 125,000 acres in southern California, 17 miles along the Pacific Ocean coastline. Most of the installation is within northern San Diego County, with only 125 acres extending to the southern part of Orange County. The installation lies between two major cities: San Diego is 38 miles south, and Los Angeles is 82 miles North.

PFAS Contamination at Camp Pendleton Drinking Water

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton has been the West Coast U.S. Marine Corps (Marine Corps) headquarters since 1946. Government entities and the DOD also use it for amphibious assault training. Commands operating from the Base include the I Marine Expeditionary Force, St Marine Division, Marine Aircraft Group 39, First Force Service Support Group, and several tenant units.

Groundwater basins at the Marine Corps Base include Las Flores, San Mateo, San Onofre, and Santa Margarita. The Base North water system has three wells in the San Onofre River Basin and four wells in the San Mateo River Basin. It provides drinking water to 12,000 to 15,000 consumers at San Onofre Recreation Beach, San Onofre housing and mobile home areas, and about 64 locations at the Base.

The South water system has three wells in the Las Flores River Basin and 12 in the Santa Margarita River Basin. It provides water to about 43 consumers in the remaining areas of the Base, including the South areas and Area 43.

Water processing and treatment at the 12 wells in the Santa Margarita River Basin involves the removal of iron and manganese. The Base samples water for inorganics, organics, radionuclides, VOCs, and unregulated chemicals in base groundwater wells every month. Bacteriological contaminants are tested in the distribution systems.

PFAS persist in the environment because they take many years to break down. These being emerging contaminants, studies are still ongoing on their health effects. Exposure to PFAS such as PFOA and PFOS leads to specific health conditions, including reduced immunity, liver and kidney problems/ cancer, infertility, pregnancy complications, increased cholesterol, thyroid problems, and testicular cancer. Studies have also shown that PFHxS exposure increases the risk of elevated cholesterol, changes to liver function and thyroid hormone levels, reduced response to vaccines, and reduced immune response.

PFAS Regulation and Health Effects

EPA recently changed the 2016 Lifetime Health Advisory Levels for PFOA and PFOS from a combined level of 70ppt to 0.004ppt for PFOA and 0.002ppt for PFOS. Recent studies indicate that even minor exposure to these compounds may have adverse health effects. Drinking water sampling done in 2022 at the Marine Corps base was below the lifetime Health Advisory Response Levels.

In October 2022, the California Water Board set new drinking water PFAS limits of 0.007 part per trillion for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and one ppt for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). PFAS sampling conducted in February 2023 at the Marine Corps Base showed PFOA and PFOS exceeding these limits at eight wells in the Northern wells. These wells were closed, and the personnel and their families were notified. The Base currently gets drinking water from wells in the South, which supply over six million gallons daily. The base intends to install two new liquid-phase granular activated carbon filtration systems to clean up the water from contaminated wells.

Other Toxic Elements Found At Camp Pendleton Base Drinking Water

  • Arsenic – exposure increases the risk of cancer and skin lesions
  • Antimony  that affects the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract
  • Aluminum – exposure to chronic exposure leads to lung problems
  • Beryllium – a known carcinogen and can cause respiratory tract problems and burning/itching if it enters the eyes
  • Boron – chronic exposure can cause health problems involving the stomach and kidneys
  • Barium – causes certain illnesses, such as breathing problems, stomach irritation, nerve reflex changes
  • Cobalt – associated with asthma-like allergy
  • Cadmium –can lead to lung damage, and chronic exposure is fatal
  • Copper –may lead to headaches, diarrhea, and kidney failure
  • Chromium – affects the lungs, throat, and nose
  • Iron –irritates eyes and skin and, if inhaled, may cause lung damage and metal-fume fever
  • Manganese –high levels of exposure are associated with delayed motor movements.
  • Mercury – chronic exposure causes tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular effects, headaches, and cognitive and motor dysfunction.
  • Lead – is linked to anemia, brain and kidney damage
  • Toluene – may cause short-term and long-term health conditions, such as anxiety, insomnia, confusion, and nerve damage
  • Thallium – exposure may lead to temporary hair loss, diarrhea, vomiting, and death
  • Tetrachloroethene – may lead to respiratory problems
  • Vinyl chloride – chronic exposure can be fatal, causing drowsiness, dizziness, and unconsciousness.
  • Vanadium – exposure leads to symptoms such as tremors, headaches, shortness of breath, and dizziness
  • Zinc – may lead to respiratory tract irritation, pneumothorax, and bilateral diffuse infiltrations.

File a Lawsuit on PFAS Contamination at Camp Pendleton

How long these PFAS have been in drinking water at the base is unknown. The health of thousands of service member, civilians, and their families who lived at the base over the years is at risk due to exposure to PFAS-contaminated drinking water.

Stephens and Stephens LLP are investigating cases of PFAS Contamination at Camp Pendleton drinking water. You could be eligible for compensation if you or a loved one suffers from a PFAS-related illness after living at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Contact Hugh Stephens for a free case review.

PFAS contamination at military Bases across the country is believed to occur from PFAS-based firefighting foam (AFFF). The military has used PFAS-based AFFF since the 1970s to respond to emergencies and for firefighting training.

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