Lakewood Water District is suing the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense, the Air Force and the Army, as well as 13 manufacturers, including 3M and DuPont, over firefighting foam used on Joint Base Lewis-McChord that leaked into the groundwater supply.
The district said it will spend over $377 million in the next 50 years for water-quality protection projects because the foam contains Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that have potentially adverse affects on people’s health and the environment.
PFAS are referred to as “forever chemicals” by the Environmental Protection Agency because they don’t break down naturally in the environment. The C-8 Medical Monitoring Program, created as part of a settlement against DuPont over water contamination in West Virginia, found a probable link between PFOA — part of the PFAS family — and pregnancy-induced hypertension, kidney disease, tesiticular cancer, thyroid disease and high cholesterol.
Despite detecting PFAS in some the groundwater supply sources, the district said the water continues to be safe to drink. Ten of the district’s groundwater wells that were tested show they have been impacted by PFAS. All are located close to JBLM.
The firefighting foam was used for emergency response and training on JBLM for more than 35 years.
The lawsuit was filed July 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington but likely will be consolidated into a much larger case currently being heard in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.
That case involves over 500 other suits with similar claims against the same defendants for PFAS contamination.
The Defense Department is set to pay over $3 billion to clean up water sources at military installations across the country. The latest assessment by the Pentagon shows PFAS has been discovered in water sources in at least 651 military facilities including Camp Murray, JBLM, JBLM’s Yakima training center and Naval Base Kitsap.
A Defense Department task force working to address the response to PFAS contamination released a progress report in March and said it has found no PFAS-free foam that meets the safety standards set by DOD to extinguish fuel fires.
The Defense Department has not responded to the lawsuit.