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Fort Ord, California Veterans Raise Cancer Fears Over Groundwater Contamination

groundwater leeching stokes cancer fears at former California military baseVeterans from a former California military installation have joined a growing number of United States military servicemembers who may have been routinely exposed to a variety of highly toxic chemicals throughout their tenures at their bases. The primary exposure at the Fort Ord installation, like numerous other bases, appears to have come via the drinking water supply.

According to an Associated Press investigative piece published this month, hundreds of former Ford Ord soldiers and staff have joined a Facebook group trying to determine the source of their illnesses. In many of those cases, the illnesses are rare blood cancers and those that are suffering with the cancers have no prior family history of the disease.

United States military installations have a long history of fear and concern within their borders and surrounding communities over significant contamination of local groundwater. Solvents, jet fuel, firefighting chemicals and others have been allowed to leech into base groundwater supplies and those of their surrounding areas for decades. “The water from the aquifer above leaks down into the aquifer below and the pollution just gets deeper,” says an official from the water district responsible for Fort Ord. “The toxic material remains in the soil under where it was dumped. Every time it rains, more of the toxin in the soil leeches down into the water table.”

Reports regarding these contaminations have, at times, had difficulty seeing the light of day. A report issued during the single-term Trump administration was held in what is known as “draft status” for significantly longer than was otherwise necessary to prevent the release of the information it contained. When the report was finally released to the American people it showed that toxic contamination of these sites was far worse than anyone had previously indicated or expected. Federal regulations for what could be regarded as safe levels of exposure were actually orders of magnitude over what a safe level of exposure should be. Fearing a “PR nightmare,” the administration withheld the release of the information for as long as possible before facing the wrath of a betrayed and angry public.