Military bases’ contamination will affect water for generations

Once a fighter jet training base critical to the Cold War, little remains of the former George Air Force Base but rows of dilapidated houses, a dismantled military hospital and dangerous chemicals from pesticides, jet fuels and other hazardous wastes that have poisoned the water for decades.

“Now when I see the base today, areas of it look like a war zone,” said Frank Vera, an Air Force veteran stationed on the base in the early 1970s. “I don’t think people know what to do with some of these areas because they are so contaminated.”

George is among at least 400 active and closed military installations nationwide where the use of toxic chemicals has contaminated or is suspected of contaminating water on bases and nearby communities with chemicals ranging from cleaning solvents and paints to explosives and firefighting foam, according to a News21 investigation.

At 149 current and former U.S. military bases, the contamination is so severe that they have been designated Superfund sites by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, meaning they are among the most hazardous areas in the country requiring cleanup.

“Even though the DOD has made significant strides in identifying and investigating the level of contamination at domestic base sites, the pace of actual cleanup has been quite slow,” according to a research study from the Berkeley School of Law. “As the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) recently found, ‘most of the time and money has been spent studying the problem.’”

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