If you live on a military base and only drink bottled water, you’ve probably made a good call.

A recently released report from the Department of Defense showss that a number of military installations are plagued with unsafe drinking water that can cause illness and fertility issues- and the government tried to cover it up.

The water (be it drinking water or groundwater) appears to be contaminated with Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), which can be traced to everything from hamburger wrappers to firefighting equipment and waterproofing agents.

While limited exposure to the contaminants is essentially harmless, some human studies have shown a connection between PFOS/PFOAs and developmental delays in fetuses & children, decreased fertility, increased cholesterol, changes to the immune system; increased uric acid levels, changes in liver enzymes, and prostate, kidney, and testicular cancer, as well as other illnesses.

Out of 401 installations where the groundwater was sampled (as of August 31, 2017), 90 exceeded the “acceptable” levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency, which were lowered in recent years.

One of the big contaminant sources seems to be Aqueous Film Forming Foam, the foam frequently found in firefighting vehicles, aircraft hangars, and just about anywhere where there is a threat of petroleum-related fires. Be it from use or poor storage, the chemicals seep into the ground and drainage systems, contaminating the area.

While the issue is nothing new -and has been discussed since at least the 1980s- the number of affected installations is worryingly high.

To make matters worse, however, the EPA and a White House aide attempted to block the public release of the survey’s findings, claiming it would cause a “public relations nightmare.”

“The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge,” one unidentified White House aide said in an email that was leaked to the press and picked up by Politico. “The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful. We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.”

The Department of Defense has vowed to remedy the issue as best as it can, to include finding alternative firefighting foams, disposal of contaminated groundwater and regular check-ups of local water supplies.

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