The drinking water is still safe at Camp Pendleton although it did test positive for bacteria found in feces, the base confirmed Friday.
Lab results from regular tests of Pendleton’s water system found more than 6 percent of the lab samples tested contained coliform, a bacteria in human and animals digestive tracts that is also found in fecal matter.
To be clear, “there was no fecal matter found in Camp Pendleton’s base water system,” said spokesman Marine Corps Capt. Luke Weaver.
“The installation routinely monitors for drinking water contaminants. We test weekly at a minimum,” Weaver said in a statement. “Forty-nine samples were taken in the southern water system to test for the presence of coliform bacteria during April 2018. Of those samples, 6.1 percent (3 of 49) showed the presence of total coliform bacteria. The standard is that no more than 5 percent of the total number of samples collected per month test positive for that bacteria.”
However the base does not think it was the water that tested positive. Weaver said they believe that the base’s aging water infrastructure was not properly cleaned before the tests — leading to the detection of the coliform.
“We believe this because all follow-up sampling was negative for coliforms and other bacteria,” Weaver said.
In response, the base has put a plan in place to better disinfect each system and to make some replacements of aging system parts at the sampling locations by the end of the year, Weaver said.
The base’s lab results come as the Pentagon has reported that hundreds of water sources on its active and closed bases have tested for higher than recommended levels of PFOS and PFOA chemical compounds that have been tied to cancers and developmental issues. Those sites ― and the potential long-term health effects to service members and their communities ― will be the subject of a congressional study next year.
The Pentagon found one system at Pendleton had higher than recommended PFOS and PFOA levels and “the affected reservoir was drained and replaced with water from another source,” the Pentagon reported.
Tara Copp is the Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times and author of the award-winning military nonfiction "The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story."