Report Shows Wells Near Base Contaminated by Hand Grenade Testing

Drinking water wells near a U.S. Army base in South Carolina have shown contamination from a chemical found in hand grenades according to a recently released study.

The Associated Press reported more than 16 percent of drinking water wells tested the last six years near Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, showed contamination from RDX, a chemical found in hand grenades used to train soldiers.

The data was released in late July by Fort Jackson and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. It shows the pollution levels in some instances were high enough to exceed federal safety advisories for RDX, a chemical that can cause seizures and cancer in people from long-term exposure.

RDX is an ingredient in hand grenades that makes them explode. Fort Jackson officials estimated that soldiers throw 100,000 hand grenades a year at the base which encompasses more than 52,000 acres. It is the largest and most active initial entry training center in the U.S. Army, training 50 percent of all soldiers and 60 percent of the women entering the service each year.

The U.S. Army has conducted more than 800 tests involving 186 wells near the military base since 2013, finding 31 wells polluted by RDX (16.6 percent). Of those, 16 exceeded federal standards for safe drinking water or were over a risk limit established by the federal government.

Base officials think the pollution was caused from training soldiers decades ago. They added that base staff has taken measures to prevent RDX from flowing toward private wells, including treating soil with lime to neutralize the chemical. Water filtration systems have been installed to keep it out of tap water as well.

Fort Jackson said it will test wells for those who request it and grant the base permission. The base now is testing about 75 wells annually.