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PFAS exposure at Bergstrom Air Force Base

Located seven miles east of Austin in Travis County and originally known as Del Valle Army Air Base, Bergstrom Air Force Base was established during WWII and remained operating as a permanent facility after the war. The site was converted into the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in the 1990s after decades of military employment. During the height of WWII, the facility served as a training ground for pilots who went on to participate in the D-Day invasion and the Berlin Airlift. Bergstrom Air Force Base was an important defense site for the United States throughout the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Gulf War. The former Bergstrom Air Force Base has been found to have high amounts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). There were 142 times greater concentrations measured than the public health threshold established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

During the Air Force's 50-year service at Bergstrom, 481 hazardous waste zones were established to contain photo-processing chemicals, fire training pits, and fuel spills. Synthesized by humans, PFAS substances are present in common home products, food and clothes, and even take-out food wrappers. However, at military bases, such as Bergstrom Air Force Base, they are contained in the foam used to extinguish aircraft fires.

Bergstrom Air Force Base was put on a fast-track cleaning timetable in order to fulfill the airport's April 1999 opening date. Site investigation and cleaning preparations were hastened by a collaboration of local and state agencies, EPA Region 6, and the Air Force Real Property Agency. To assist and accelerate the property transfer, environmental cleaning was included in the development of what is now known as Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA).

What toxic agents were present at Bergstrom Air Force Base?

The usage of PFAS-containing foams on Bergstrom Air Force Base aided in the extinguishment of high-hazard, difficult-to-fight Class B fires caused by petroleum products or flammable liquids or gases such as oil, gasoline, and jet fuel. The foam was quite popular in previous years, but it is now being phased out owing to its high concentrations of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), both of which are classified as carcinogenic.

A site investigation of potential PFAS release locations at the former Bergstrom Air Force Base indicated that from 1942 to 1991, firefighting training operations were held at FT023P, which is about one mile north of the facility. FT023P consisted of a fire training pit with a circular berm and limestone lining, measuring roughly 200 feet in diameter.

It was determined from on-site interviews that the reported historical AFFF releases have been linked to:

  • the Maintenance Hangar AFFF releases
  • AFFF fire extinguisher testing/training at the wash rack
  • AFFF fire suppression systems at the Storage Hangar and Fixed Wing Support Hangar
  • the storage of AFFF in the hazardous materials storage building and Tri-Max units at the Fuel Station

PFAS were not the only toxic substances found at Bergstrom Air Force Base; there have been a number of other potentially harmful substances, such as:

  • volatile organic contaminants (VOCs)
  • pesticides
  • petroleum hydrocarbons
  • low-level radioactive waste

What illnesses am I at risk of developing as a result of PFAS exposure at Bergstrom Air Force Base?

Due to the extensive use of PFAS and its capacity to persist in the environment, PFAS levels from previous and present usage may accumulate over time, resulting in growing levels of environmental contamination. Certain PFAS have also been demonstrated to accumulate in people and animals, as shown by blood testing. While research into the possible health impacts of PFAS is ongoing, existing data show that bioaccumulation of particular PFAS may result in major health problems.

According to medical studies, PFAS exposure may result in the development of a slew of terrible illnesses, generally over the course of many years. This means that Bergstrom Air Force Base veterans and their family members who observe a new development of troublesome symptoms should seek medical assistance promptly.

If you or a family member was stationed at Bergstrom Air Force Base and was exposed to PFAS, these are the diagnoses for which you can seek financial compensation:

We are available to help you in evaluating your legal options

U.S. military veterans who served on bases that have records of exposure issues, such as Bergstrom Air Force Base have access to specialized medical care and financial assistance. However, this area of the law is quite complex, and it requires keen insight and experience. Our experienced staff has the expertise and legal understanding necessary to address these types of claims. To learn more about your legal options, call us today.

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