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City of Dayton Sues Wright Patterson Air Force Base, DoD Over Alleged Water Contamination

— May 7, 2021

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the U.S. Department of Defense are in hot water over allegations that they caused the local drinking water to become contaminated with PFAS.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the U.S. Department of Defense were recently hit with a lawsuit by the city of Dayton over allegations that the local drinking water is contaminated with PFAS. The city is seeking about $300 million in damages as a result. Filed in the Southern District of Ohio, the lawsuit alleges the DoD and base failed to “stop water containing a group of toxic chemicals call per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances ― or PFAS ― from flowing daily into the city’s Mad River Wellfield.” The wellfield is one of many that supplies Dayton with drinking water for more than 400,000 residents that live in Dayton and Montgomery County.

Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

According to the lawsuit, “the contaminants impact surface water, groundwater and the soil the wellfield ― which borders the base’s Areas A and B.” On the base, there are a handful of PFAS hotspots, and if the situation isn’t remedied soon, it may end up costing millions of dollars, the city said. Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein stated:

“The city absolutely did not want to file this lawsuit…We’ve invested more than four years trying to get (Wright-Patt) and the DoD to agree to take steps to mitigate ongoing contamination coming from the base into the city’s Mad River Wellfield and the aquifer that supplies those wells.”

In accordance with the law, city officials sent a formal letter of complaint to the base and DoD back in March that informed both parties that they planned to sue no later than May 4, “unless they agree to work with the city to mitigate the contamination problem.” However, the base “previously declined the arrangement ― known as a tolling agreement ― that would have allowed continued cooperative work on the contamination problem while extending the time the city has to file a lawsuit under federal law,” according to Dickstein. The DoD also declined the offer for the tolling agreement.

Back in April, the base pushed back against the city’s claims that “PFAS from the installation is threatening Dayton’s drinking water supply,” and noted the groundwater around the base boundary “is below the Environmental Protection Agency’s action levels.” Additionally, base officials pointed out that the Air Force carries out “quarterly sentry well sampling to track any changing levels and regularly shares the information with the city.”

Regardless, the city is pursuing litigation and is seeking damages anywhere from $10 million to $300 million, “based on whether the DoD and Wright-Patt are willing to implement various treatment options available to them to stop the ongoing damages.”

For those who don’t know, PFAS are known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they can stay in your body for a long period of time. They’re often found in contaminated water, non0stick products, waxes, waterproof fabrics, polishes, and even certain food packaging, according to the EPA. Too much exposure to PFAS could cause issues with pregnancies, “increase cholesterol levels and cause some forms of cancer,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Dayton files $300 million drinking water contamination lawsuit against Wright-Patt

City of Dayton plans to file lawsuit against Wright-Patt, Department of Defense over water contamination

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