Contaminated military bases in Virginia

As the number of claims related to water contamination at Camp Lejeune continues to rise, it’s brought to light the sheer amount of toxic exposure that members of the U.S. military have been subjected to.

military members hose down a runway at an Air Force base

The PACT Act addresses many injustices that U.S. service members and their families may recover for. One might assume that this recent attention to toxicity on military bases would ensure that higher standards are being adhered to. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

How contaminated are Virginia military bases?

The statistics in Virginia are shocking. Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia is the fourth most contaminated military base in the country. Currently:

  • 11 Army bases in Virginia are confirmed to be contaminated
  • 20 additional bases are under investigation
  • 9 bases are classified as Superfunds – sites so hazardous, that the EPA has flagged them as a candidate for a cleanup.

Below I’ve listed the most problematic bases in Virginia, along with the “ppt” (parts per trillion) number of contaminants and dangerous compounds found on-site.

riding trucks through a military base

The most contaminated military bases in Virginia

  1.  Langley Air Force Base – Hampton, VA (2,225,000 ppt)
  2.  Naval Air Station Oceana – Virginia Beach, VA (493,600 ppt)
  3.  Fort Eustis – Newport News, VA (77,600 ppt)
  4.  Fentress Naval Auxiliary Landing Field – Chesapeake, VA (52,900 ppt)
  5.  Norfolk Naval Shipyard – Norfolk, VA (29,700 ppt)
  6.  NASA Wallops Flight Facility – Wallops Island, VA (24,870 ppt)

What is making people sick on military bases?

For at least 100 years, many military bases have had lax rules surrounding clean-up, which has led to disastrous effects. At Camp Lejeune, over 60 hazardous compounds had been found, and the concentrations were up to 3,400 times above adequate safety limits. Some volatile organic compounds that contribute to this issue are:

  • Decaying degreasers
  • Solvents
  • Oil
  • Aqueous film-forming foam (“AFFF” is a fire retardant)
  • Other industrial chemicals

The “other” industrial chemicals include “forever chemicals” such as PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances). They are referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their resilient molecular structure – making a clean-up dangerous and difficult.

child drinking a glass of water

Is Virginia’s water supply contaminated?

A study conducted by Virginia’s Department of Health found PFAS in Virginia’s waterways. However, the results were narrow in scope due to legal restrictions and insufficient funding. Only 50 locations out of 2,500 have been tested, which is drastically lacking.

Several states in the country have adopted standards for PFAS in drinking water. These regulations require that levels be at or below the EPA’s 2016 advisory recommendation. Unfortunately, Virginia has yet to establish any such regulations.

What illnesses do people suffer when exposed to toxins on military bases?

At Camp Lejeune and beyond, military members and their families have experienced ailments, or even death. Some related cancers and conditions include:

  • Scleroderma
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Liver Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Miscarriage
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Renal Toxicity
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Aplastic Anemia and other Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Cardiac Birth Defects
  • Hepatic Steatosis (Fatty Liver Disease)

Because of these illnesses, military bases are tested and placed on a list for clean-ups. Priority goes to Superfund sites. While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does the testing, the Department of Defense is responsible for the clean-up. While this is good news for those who live on or near contaminated bases, many have voiced concern over some of the Department of Defense’s practices.

air pollution contaminating a redlined neighborhood

Environmental racism and the Justice40 program

Some critics of the Department of Defense accuse the government of redlining land in minority neighborhoods. They feel the land has been undervalued, and subsequently used for industrial facilities that pump harsh chemicals into the air, build army bases, create ports and other pollution hotspots.

The contaminated water supply in Flint, Michigan is a well-known example. Countless research and studies have fortified this criticism. Scientific American released a study, showing that residents in economically-depressed neighborhoods breathe in more hazardous particles than their wealthier counterparts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) released a study, revealing that Black and Latinx communities are exposed to 56%-63% more air pollutants than they contribute to.

President Biden’s administration has recognized the pattern of contaminants being more concentrated in vulnerable communities and has launched the Justice40 program. The program aims to direct 40% of future climate investments towards lower-income communities that face high environmental burdens.

If you or a loved one are suffering an illness believed to be caused by toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune or a similar site, call the compassionate toxic exposure lawyers at Allen & Allen for a free consultation. From Camp Lejeune to overseas exposure while on duty, we are here to help. Call 1-866-388-1307.