Department of Defense Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

Department of Defense Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a national issue that requires national solutions. PFAS are found in everyday consumer items – from nonstick cookware to water-resistant clothing. DoD’s use of PFAS started in the 1970s, with the introduction of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) for fuel firefighting purposes.  AFFF contains PFAS and may contain perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and, in some formulations, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), two chemicals of the larger class of PFAS. DoD is one of many users of AFFF; other major users include commercial airports, the oil and gas industry, and local fire departments. To protect its Service members and prevent releases to the environment, DoD only uses AFFF to respond to emergency events and for testing and training when it can be completely contained and properly disposed.  

In May 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) lifetime Health Advisories (HAs) recommending the individual or combined levels of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water be at or below 70 parts per trillion (ppt). While the HAs are only guidance under the SDWA and not a required or enforceable drinking water standard, DoD began taking actions to address impacted drinking water and developed strategies to investigate and address DoD releases of PFAS. These actions include providing bottled water, point-of-use water filters, connections to municipal systems, and filtration systems. Additionally, all DoD-owned and operated drinking water systems have been sampled for PFOS and PFOA. No one – on or off base – is drinking water above the EPA HAs where DoD is the known source of the PFOS and/or PFOA release.  

This website provides a summary of information about DoD’s PFAS drinking water testing at installations in the United States and its Territories, cleanup actions, and PFAS treatment methodologies currently available and under development. PFAS Snapshots for the installations where PFOS and/or PFOA sampling results exceeded the EPA HAs in DoD-owned and operated on-base drinking water, off-base drinking water, and/or groundwater that is not consumed as drinking water are searchable by state at PFAS Snapshots.

PFAS Testing Results for On-Base DoD-Owned and Operated Drinking Water Systems

The DoD Components have tested all DoD-owned and operated drinking water systems to identify drinking water that exceeded the EPA HAs for PFOS and PFOA. The Department takes immediate, short-term actions to address drinking water systems that tested above the EPA HAs where DoD is the known source of the PFOS and/or PFOA release. After stopping this drinking water exposure to PFOS and PFOA, DoD is implementing long-term drinking water solutions, such as closing wells, installing new wells, and adding permanent PFAS-specific treatment equipment to drinking water systems. No one on base is drinking water above the EPA HAs where DoD is the known source of the PFOS and/or PFOA release. We are continuing to test our DoD-owned and operated drinking water systems to ensure PFOS and PFOA levels remain below the EPA HAs. Table 1 in the PFAS Snapshots provides testing results for and the status of actions to address PFOS and PFOA in on-base DoD-owned and operated drinking water systems where applicable.

DoD Cleanup Actions to Address Off-Base Drinking Water and Groundwater

DoD follows the federal cleanup law, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 (also known as “Superfund”), and long-standing EPA regulations for all chemicals in its cleanup program, including PFAS. CERCLA provides a consistent, science-based approach across the nation for cleanup. As DoD moves through the CERCLA process, the Department works in collaboration with regulatory agencies, communities, and facilities to ensure open and transparent information sharing.  

Following CERCLA, DoD fully investigates releases and determines the appropriate cleanup actions based on risk. These investigations include assessing potential off-installation migration of PFOS and/or PFOA into drinking water. DoD’s priority is to quickly address PFOS and PFOA found in drinking water above the EPA HAs from DoD activities. DoD’s actions are consistent with EPA’s recommendations, which include treatment of drinking water or providing alternative water supplies, such as bottled water, or connecting residents served by private wells to public drinking water systems. In addition, no one off base is drinking water with PFOS and/or PFOA above the EPA HAs where DoD is the known source of the PFOS and/or PFOA release. Table 2 in the PFAS Snapshots provides testing results for and the status of actions to address PFOS and PFOA in non-DoD drinking water systems and private wells located off base where applicable. DoD also addresses PFOS and PFOA in groundwater that is not consumed as drinking water under CERCLA. Table 3 in the PFAS Snapshots provides testing results for and the status of actions to address PFOS and PFOA in groundwater that is not consumed as drinking water where applicable.

DoD Map of Military Installations and National Guard Facilities Conducting Assessments for PFAS Use or Potential Release

The map below shows the location of the Military Installations and National Guard Facilities where DoD is conducting assessments for PFAS use or potential release as of March 30, 2021. 

Installations Conducting Assessments for PFAS Use or Potential Release

PFAS Health Information

Due to PFAS’ ability to build up in the body, even small amounts consumed regularly and over a lifetime can result in measurable levels in exposed people. Scientists are still studying the health effects of exposure to PFAS. Although more research is needed, some studies in people have shown that certain PFAS may affect health. People should see their healthcare provider if they have any concerns with PFAS exposure and possible health effects. Visit https://www.health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Combat-Support/Public-Health/PFAS for more information on PFAS health effects.

PFAS Treatment Methodologies

DoD is investing significant resources in research to develop technologies to quantify and clean up PFOS and PFOA and related PFAS chemicals. DoD’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) are working on PFAS treatment methodologies and have developed several approaches for treating groundwater that contains PFOS and PFOA, such as In Situ PFAS Sequestration in AFFF-Impacted Groundwater and In Situ Thermal Treatment of PFAS in the Vadose Zone, which have matured from small-scale laboratory projects to field demonstrations.  

For more information on SERDP’s and ESTCP’s efforts on treatment methodologies, including a summary of the in situ and ex situ remedial approaches that are currently being developed, visit: https://www.serdp-estcp.org/Featured-Initiatives/Per-and-Polyfluoroalkyl-Substances-PFASs