Read the full article by Pat Elder (Military Poisons)
“The Army has likely been poisoning the drinking water at Vint Hill, Virginia for two generations but practically no one knew a thing about it until the Prince William Times ran a story about PFAS contamination at the Army’s former Vint Hill Farms Station. The Army and water providers say Vint Hill’s water is safe.
Aqueous film-forming foam, (AFFF) was used in fire training exercises at the base from the early 1970’s until the installation closed in 1997. The foams contain high concentrations of PFAS. The facility was originally opened in 1942 to intercept messages from the Germans and Japanese during World War II, but it was later used as an Army training camp.
According to the 1999 Superfund Record of Decision regarding Vint Hill Farms Station, a firefighting training pit was used monthly at Vint Hill Farms. During training the pit was filled with petroleum and natural gas odorant. The unlined crater was approximately 50 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep. Solvents and other combustible materials were used in the pit. The lethal mixture was ignited to create a massive fireball that was extinguished using AFFF. It’s what they did from the beaches of Okinawa to the forests of Germany. Only now are people taking notice of the scale of the environmental crime.
The area today – South Run flows on the west side of the map. The red circle shows the approximate area of the burn pit. The brown X is the approximate location of the sludge-drying beds, and the yellow X shows where the disposal area was located. Based on the evidence provided by the Army we can expect the region’s aquifer to be severely contaminated with carcinogenic PFAS.
We don’t know the specifics of the contamination like many Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force installations because the Army is very secretive about these things. The Army is required to publish a series of reports detailing the existence of PFAS in a host of environmental media, along with analytical results, but it has refused to do so in the case of Vint Hill. This is why the press and the local community are left playing a kind of guessing game regarding the deadly impact on the community’s health today. We’ll analyze the ‘CERCLA’ or ‘Superfund’ process below.
The Army Corps of Engineers, one of the most trusted of American institutions, continues to tell Fauquier County authorities, residents, and business owners that the levels of PFAS detected in their water supply are no reason for alarm.
It’s easy for them to say that, in fact, this has been the Army’s line across the country and around the world. Congress wants to see the highest levels for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water and groundwater, so we have that data in most states except for Hawaii.
Although there are more than 15,000 varieties of PFAS, and they’re all thought to be dangerous, government and media are fixated on just a handful of these compounds, especially PFOS and PFOA – and these two have been phased out of production while being substituted with other deadly chemical formulations.
Highest levels of PFAS reported at
Vint Hill in parts per trillion, (ppt)
Total PFAS = 1,804.1
Total PFAS = 2,489
The EPA’s current Interim Health Advisory is .02 for PFOS and .004 for PFOA in drinking water and groundwater.
The highest PFOA level was 1,300 ppt so that is (1,300 / .004 = 325,000) 325,000 times over the limit. The highest PFOS level was 1,000 ppt so that is 50,000 times over the PFOS limit. https://www.acq.osd.mil/eie/eer/ecc/pfas/docs/reports/PFAS-at-Base-Realignment-and-Closure-Locations.pdf
Who knew? There is no record that the Army has notified residents of the potential for severe injury.
The National Academies of the Sciences says people who have been routinely exposed to these chemicals ought to have their blood tested and if levels for seven types of PFAS: PFOS, PFOA, PFUnDA, PFHxS, PFDA PFNA, and MeFOSAA exceed 2 parts per billion, people ought to undergo a host of clinical tests.
Apparently, the Fauquier County Health Department never got that memo and neither did the state of Virginia. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs knows all about the advice from the National Academies of the Sciences, but they refuse to test the blood of sick Veterans for PFAS, claiming there’s no point because everyone has the substances in their blood anyway. Critics compare the response to opening a Pandora’s box of exorbitant liability. It’s all about the money, human life be damned, they say.
A simple, yet reliable pin-prick test, offered by firms used by the military and states for environmental services, is less than $300.
In July 2023, the Army Corps of Engineers told residents, business owners, and county officials in a letter that the water at Vint Hill ‘meets or exceeds all mandated water quality standards and the EPA’s established lifetime health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS.’ The Army’s statement is based on the EPA’s antiquated 2016 Lifetime Health Advisory (LHA) of 70 parts per trillion. The EPA changed its LHA last year to .02 ppt for PFOS and .004 for PFOA. The DOD pretends these new advisories don’t exist and they’re rarely called out on it.
The Fauquier County Water and Sewer Authority publishes annual reports on water quality at Vint Hill, but PFAS testing isn’t included in the reports. That’s because the county says it doesn’t have the ability to test for PFAS and is not yet required to do so.
This is nonsense. The county could make a single phone call, bring in the experts, and have PFAS results from dozens of wells in a few weeks. It is true that the county is not required to test, and this is the way the military wants to keep it. They want communities across the country to trust them, however, people don’t, so things are beginning to change. Many thousands of locations on US bases in every state and around the world are contaminated by the reckless behavior of the Department of Defense, while they’ve known of the disastrous health impact of PFAS since the 1970’s.
At Vint Hill, the drinking water service is owned and operated by the Buckland Water and Sanitation Assets Corporation. Even if the water is severely contaminated, Buckland, technically, hasn’t done anything wrong. Buckland’s president Deborah Brown told the Fauquier Times that the company contracts with a third party to test the water for PFAS. Brown declined to share testing results with the Fauquier Times citing concerns that the public would misunderstand them. She said Buckland water is meeting the EPA’s 2016 standard of 70 parts per trillion. This is outrageous. It is time for the public to come to a deeper understanding of these carcinogens in their water.
If people drinking this water understood the threat to their health, they would be outraged, and the Army wouldn’t get a pass.
According to the Fauquier Times, eleven wells within the vicinity of Vint Hill are tested for PFAS, but the Virginia Department of Health has not seen the results of those tests, according to Dwayne Roadcap, director of department’s Office of Drinking Water. ‘The Vint Hill waterworks owner planned to sample all of the wells twice per year after 2020 for PFAS but has not shared that data with VDH, if performed,’ Roadcap wrote in an email to the Fauquier Times.
Where are the grownups in Viriginia?
We are discussing substances that are known to cause ghastly problems to the developing fetus at concentrations that are a tiny fraction of what’s present here. This is not hyperbole; it is not motivated by a hatred of the military. Rather, it is a statement of fact.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality reports that it has found PFAS in South Run and in nearby Broad Run. It’s important because PFOS bioaccumulates in fish. These creeks eventually drain into the Potomac River where the state of Maryland says it’s OK to consume Largemouth Bass with 94,200 parts per trillion of PFOS in its filet. The river is heavily contaminated with PFAS from military installations like Dahlgren, Indian Head Surface Warfare Center, and Joint Base Andrews.
An Army spokesperson told the Fauquier Times that the Army is now in the ‘remedial investigation phase’ of its cleanup at Vint Hill. This too, is nonsense.
The Army letter of July 11, 2023 refers to sampling done in 2020. It says the next step in the CERCLA process for PFAS is the Remedial Investigation.
The Army hasn’t completed the first step of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) process for Vint Hill Farms Station.
The Army hasn’t published step 1 in the CERCLA (superfund process) for Vint Hill! This is known as the Preliminary Assessment when contractors with engineering firms publish a report that lays out the areas that ought to be tested. The Site Inspection is the second step, and Vint Hill folks don’t have that either.
A Site Inspection will provide results for soil, sediment, surface water, etc., along with the directional flow of groundwater and surface water. The Army likely possesses these first two reports. Locals ought to consider requesting that they be made public.
They’ll likely find this won’t work, so concerned citizens ought to file Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIA requests). Sadly, the DOD ignores many of these requests. They tend to ‘fizzle into nothingness,’ to use the words of Christina Jedra with Civil Beat in Honolulu, Hawaii. in her piece, The military’s public information black hole.
The Army is facing staggering liability. It is mission critical for them to thwart civilian adversaries. In this sense, Germans, Japanese, and Virginians are all subjected to the same poisonous tyranny. Jefferson warned us about such tyranny in the Declaration of Independence.
Executive and legislative avenues of redress are largely shut down in the face of these egregious human rights abuses. The people of Vint Hill ought to have their blood tested and their health screened for disease and cancer caused by drinking the carcinogenic water and eating the carcinogenic food. They must organize themselves into collectives to bring suit against the manufacturers of the chemicals who made a ton of money, knew the chemicals were harmful, but kept manufacturing them anyway.
When the Army provides results for groundwater, townsfolk must know how many analytes they tested for. The Army prefers to keep the compounds tested to a small handful when labs may test for 55. Often, ‘other’ PFAS compounds have total concentrations greater than the PFOS and PFOA, and they’re deadly too.
Also, the Vint Hill fire pit stopped being used in about 1997. People should understand that the PFAS drains into the soil over time. The military may test the surficial aquifer, say, at 10’ below ground surface, and they may test the deeper aquifer at 200’ down. They’ll report low results at both depths when they know the highest levels may be found half-way in between. They’ll also say the carcinogens haven’t reached the deeper aquifer when it may be just a matter of time.”