Physical environment

EPA proposes eliminating standards for contaminated water treatment near military bases

After pressure from the Defense Department, the Environmental Protection Agency significantly weakened a proposed standard for cleaning up groundwater pollution caused by toxic chemicals that contaminate drinking water and that have been commonly used at military bases, including Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton (Source: “E.P.A. Proposes Weaker Standards on Chemicals Contaminating Drinking Water,” New York Times, April 25, 2019).

Standards released by the agency on Thursday eliminated entirely a section that would have addressed how it would respond to what it has described as “immediate threats posed by hazardous waste sites.” Those short-term responses, known as removal actions, can include excavating contaminated soil or building a security fence around a toxic area.

For months, people living in communities with contaminated groundwater have asked the EPA to push for cleanup, concerned that groundwater will eventually become drinking water.

Those places include cities and towns near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio; Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado; the former Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire; Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York; and Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico. Oscoda, Mich., home to the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, is among the towns with extensive contamination in its groundwater.