Researchers at Harvard University recently conducted a study regarding the environmental impact of PFAS chemicals previously used in the fire-fighting foam known as Aqueous Film Forming Foam (“AFFF”). Not only did the study find dangerous levels of the contaminant still remaining in the soil, but also determined that the slow drip of PFAS compounds through the soil into the groundwater is likely to continue for decades.
PFAS compounds particularly are so concentrated in AFFF that they are very, very slowly moving into the groundwater. This slow drip of the chemicals is what is most concerning. The study found that only about a quarter of the chemicals from Joint Base Cape Cod have moved into groundwater, even though the site hasn’t been used for firefighting training since 1985. “The vast majority of what was applied is still sitting right next to where it was applied,” said Bridger Ruyle, the lead study author. This “slow drip” of the PFAS compounds into the groundwater likely means that the contamination will be shown years and years later, if not decades.
The Harvard study also examined what are known as PFAS “precursors” in the site’s groundwater. These precursors are poorly understood but can change into the better-known PFAS compounds through chemical and microbial reactions in the soil. Most of the PFAS chemicals in AFFF consist of these precursors. Because of this, Ruyle believes that there should be more regulations regarding the broad category of PFAS be regulated as a class, rather than regulating individual chemicals.
Ruyle stated, “You could imagine a scenario where you spend a lot of money doing a site investigation and remediation that’s effective for the compounds that you care about. But then you go back in five years and realize you haven’t gotten rid of the problem at all.”
While PFAS chemicals have been linked to a number of health concerns, including increased risk of testicular and kidney cancers, high cholesterol and decreased immune function, the VA has yet to recognize any condition that may be presumptively caused by exposure to AFFF and other PFAS. Our attorneys understand the danger posed by these hidden chemicals, including those in AFFF. We are closely monitoring new developments regarding VA disability compensation for exposure to AFFF.
If you have any questions about VA benefits, the qualified Veterans’ Disability attorneys at Gardberg and Kemmerly want to help in any way possible. Gardberg and Kemmerly is committed to helping injured and disabled Veterans obtain the benefits they deserve. If you need help with a disability claim, call our office at 251-343-1111 or 800-332-1529 for a free consultation. Gardberg and Kemmerly is proud to serve Veterans across the country from our home office in Mobile, Alabama. We would love an opportunity to discuss your claim.