By Lisa Sorg
Like most military bases, Camp Lejeune is a toxic mess.
It is one of 130 current or former military installations on the EPA’s Superfund list that are contaminated with dozens, if not hundreds of pollutants. That list now includes perfluorinated compounds — PFAS.
According to Camp Lejeune’s most recent five-year Superfund review, conducted by the EPA, there are at least 14 sites on base that are likely to have PFAS contamination. These include a firefighting training pit where groundwater levels have been detected at 500 times the EPA’s health advisory goal for drinking water.
However, it could be at least five years — Dec. 31, 2025 — before the Defense Department plans to have completed its evaluation of risks and exposures presented by PFAS contamination. A cleanup will likely take decades.
The sources of the PFAS are varied: industrial wastewater sludge, fire stations, the site of an Osprey helicopter crash, where PFAS-contaminated firefighting foam was used; the Camp Geiger Dump, which is near a former trailer park. The Department of Defense says no PFAS have been detected in drinking water above regulatory guidelines.
(In a separate issue, the EPA last week denied a petition filed by several citizens’ groups, including four in North Carolina, to require Chemours to fund independent scientific testing of 54 types of PFAS — a fraction of the 5,000-plus that are either in use, or have been, but phased out. The EPA responded that the groups did not provide “the facts necessary” that information and testing so far are insufficient.)
Here are some numbers about the PFAS contamination on base:
14 — Minimum number of sites at Camp Lejeune where there have been potential PFAS releases
7 — Minimum number of sites contaminated by firefighting foam that contained PFAS
7 — Minimum number of sites where PFAS-contaminated wastewater and sludge was dumped
70 parts per trillion — Maximum concentration of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, according to the EPA’s health advisory goal. North Carolina
has adopted that goal, but other states, like New Hampshire and New Jersey, have far stricter and enforceable
standards, 12-15 ppt
35,100 ppt — Maximum concentrations of PFOS in groundwater downhill from a the Piney Green Road Firefighting Training Pit at Camp Lejeune
3,460 ppt — Maximum concentrations of PFOA in the same area
2.6 — Number of acres encompassed by the Piney Green Road pit
47 — Number of acres at an amphibious vehicle maintenance facility, where a fire occurred, and firefighting foam was used
100 — Number of acres encompassed by the Industrial Area Fly Ash Dump; PFAS-contaminated wastewater might have been deposited there