Written By: Robert King, Esq.
Legal Review By: Mike Stag, Esq.
The Fort Lewis Water Contamination Lawsuit is an active lawsuit
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Fort Lewis Water Contamination Lawsuit Overview

Fort Lewis was once known as Camp Lewis, named after Meriwether Lewis from the Lewis and Clark expedition. It emerged in 1917 after World War I and was stagnant until a 1926 Army revitalization plan. In 1927, it was designated a Fort and acted as a training location for troops. In 1938 it expanded to include an Army Air Corps field named after Colonel William McChord who had died one year prior in an aviation accident. In 1947, the field became independently recognized as McChord Air Force Base after the U.S. Air Force was created. It remained as such until the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission led to a merger in 2010, creating Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). 

Today, Fort Lewis is home to more than 40,000 military members, 14,000 civilian employees, and 90,000 family members, veterans, and retirees. Unfortunately, these individuals and many more have been exposed to harmful toxins in the base’s drinking water. Toxins like PFAS have entered drinking water from military activity, such as the use of firefighting foams. These toxins seep into the ground, contaminate groundwater, and impact drinking water quality. If you’ve been affected by toxic drinking water and developed a related illness, you could be entitled to compensation through a lawsuit.

Fort Lewis Water Contamination Lawsuit Updates

April 2024 – King Law Accepting PFAS Water Compensation Lawsuits 

Thousands of victims across the United States are now filing PFAS water contamination lawsuits against chemical manufacturers. Many claimants lived on or near military bases like Fort Lewis where firefighting foam contributed to toxic drinking water. If you were exposed to toxic water and developed a related illness like bladder cancer, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid cancer, or thyroid disease, you may be eligible for compensation. 

May 2023 – Washington Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against PFAS Manufacturers

In May 2023, Attorney General Bob Ferguson acknowledged an environmental lawsuit filed against multiple PFAS manufacturers. The lawsuit cited firefighting foam as the source of PFAS contamination, claiming that manufacturers knew of the risks but prioritized profit over public safety. Information in the lawsuit noted how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tested the blood of over several hundred residents in Airway Heights, and every one of them tested positive for at least one type of PFAS. 

July 2020 – Lakewood Files Lawsuit Against PFAS Manufacturers for Water Quality Issues

In July 2020, the Lakewood Water District filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Government and PFAS manufacturers in an effort to “recover costs related to ongoing water quality protection efforts in response to PFAS in the District’s groundwater supply.” The city of Lakewood is located nine miles from Fort Lewis. Lakewood Water’s general manager spoke out about how PFAS entered their groundwater supply because of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s use and disposal of firefighting foam.

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Background of Toxic Exposure at Fort Lewis

PFAS use at Fort Lewis stems from the use of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF). This firefighting foam was used frequently since the 1970s, especially at military bases equipped with airfields and fire training areas to help put out petroleum fires. PFAS then entered the soil and water through landfills, wastewater, and runoff. Testing throughout the years has magnified the impact of PFAS contamination at Fort Lewis and surrounding communities. 

May 2023 – Joint Base Wells Shut Down for High Levels of PFAS

Test results from May 2023 revealed PFAS levels as high as 237, triggering a shutdown of affected wells. Residents were provided with alternate water and water treatment systems were installed to help remove PFAS from the water. Additional testing is not expected until June 2024. 

December 2022 – Millions Spent on Filtration Systems to Cleanup PFAS Contamination in Surrounding Cities 

Cities located near Fort Lewis have been battling with water contamination for years. Millions of dollars have been spent on water filtration systems and officials have filed multiple lawsuits against PFAS manufacturers they deem responsible for creating toxic firefighting foam that negatively impacted water quality. Notable PFAS levels at nearby cities include: 

  • DuPont: Serving more than 10,000 people, two of five wells have repeatedly tested higher than state action levels with inadequate warnings to the public. 
  • Airway Heights: Serving around 11,000 people, three of the city’s wells tested 40-80 times higher than state action levels for PFAS and 56 times higher than the national average. 
  • Lakewood: Serving around 115,000 people, 12 of 33 wells had PFAS levels 2-7 times higher than state action levels. 

2021 – EWG Cites PFOA Levels 456X Its Health Guideline 

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has an EWG Health Guideline of 0.004 ppt for PFOA, a type of PFAS. The EWG Tap Water Database 2021 Update noted PFOA levels 456 times higher than that guideline. 

September 2019 – PFAS at McChord AFB and Fort Lewis Test Substantially Higher than EPA Lifetime Health Advisories 

A Department of Defense (DOD) review of PFAS contamination at military bases flagged McChord AFB and Fort Lewis with PFAS levels much higher than the EPA’s 2016 advisories of 70 ppt. At McCord, PFAS tested at 303 ppt, and at Fort Lewis PFAS tested at 144.8 ppt. 

June 2018-May 2019 – Groundwater Samples Test Positive for PFAS

The Army tested for 14 different types of PFAS using 77 different groundwater samples from monitoring wells, remediation systems, and surface water bodies. PFOS results for 23 of 77 samples and PFOA results for 12 of 77 samples exceeded OSD risk screening levels. OSD levels were set by the Office of the Secretary of Defense in October 2019 to help the Army identify when Remedial Investigation was needed for PFOS, PFOA, and PFBS.

Fort Lewis Water Contamination Map

This map shows the known contamination areas at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and what their contamination source is.

The above map shows Joint Base Lewis-McChord and areas where PFAS was used, stored, or disposed of. You can also identify surrounding areas affected by the spread of PFAS contamination. Initial Army investigations identified 24 areas of interest with 52 cases of “known/potential PFAS use, storage or disposal operations.” 

Contaminants Found in Fort Lewis Drinking Water

Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) 

Monitoring of Fort Lewis drinking water continues to identify PFAS contamination. Additionally, the water has tested positive for multiple different types of the chemical. 

For example, a 2021 Water Quality Report for Joint Base Lewis-McChord for six types of PFAS including: 

  • PFBS: 2.3-6.5 ppt range 
  • PFHpA: 2.3-13 ppt range 
  • PFOA: 5.2-16 ppt range (EPA interim updated health advisory is 0.02 ppt) 
  • PFHxS: 8.3-20 ppt range 
  • PFHxA: 2.9-24 ppt range 
  • PFOS: 10-30 ppt range (EPA interim updated health advisory is 0.004 ppt) 

Similar results were published in the 2022 Water Quality Report with types of PFAS ranging from 2.23-25.9 ppt in untreated water and averages of 2.72-10.1 for treated water. 


Asbestos is another toxin found in Fort Lewis water. Water quality reports for the base list the typical source as “decay of asbestos cement water mains; erosion of natural deposits.” No level of asbestos is safe and when ingested, the microscopic, needle-like fibers can become embedded in your organ linings, causing irritation and tumor development. Asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive type of cancer also prominent among military veterans. 

Additional Contaminants 

Numerous other contaminants have affected water quality at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, including: 

  • Arsenic: 125x the EWG Health Guideline 
  • Bromodichloromethane: 14x the EWG Health Guideline 
  • Chloroform: 3.1x the EWG Health Guideline 
  • Chromium: 13x the EWG Health Guideline 
  • Dibromochloromethane: 7.3x the EWG Health Guideline 
  • Haloacetic acids (HAA5): 2.8x the EWG Health Guideline 
  • Haloacetic acids (HAA9): 33x the EWG Health Guideline 
  • Nitrate: 3x the EWG Health Guideline 
  • Radium: 6.5x the EWG Health Guideline 
  • Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs): 20x the EWG Health Guideline 

Most of these toxins are carcinogenic and can also cause reproductive issues, birth defects, kidney problems, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and much more.

Current Water Quality at Fort Lewis

PFAS contamination continues to be a problem at Fort Lewis. The most recent testing updates, reported on the U.S. military website, indicate the need to close down wells with high levels of PFAS. Individuals at the base were provided with alternative drinking water. In some cases, PFAS can fall below the EPA’s 2016 health advisory (70 ppt) but be well above their interim health advisories (0.004 ppt for PFOA, 0.02 ppt for PFOS, and 10 ppt for GenX chemicals). 

Water Treatment Efforts at Fort Lewis

Water treatment efforts are ongoing at Fort Lewis and surrounding communities. Millions of dollars have been spent on monitoring and filtration systems. Alternative drinking water has been provided to residents when PFAS levels exceed 70 ppt, and testing is done regularly to identify and notify the public of water quality concerns.

Health Risks Linked to Fort Lewis Drinking Water

Health conditions associated with contaminated drinking water at Fort Lewis may include reduced immune response, decreased vaccine efficacy, ulcerative colitis, and various cancer symptoms.

Our law firm is currently evaluating cases where individuals have been diagnosed with:

  • Bladder Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple-Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Testicular Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • Thyroid Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis

Be sure to notify your healthcare provider of your exposure so you can undergo any screenings and monitoring to identify any illnesses as soon as possible. In many cases, the sooner you begin treatment, the better your prognosis. 

Eligibility Criteria for Fort Lewis Water Contamination Lawsuit

To be eligible for a Fort Lewis PFAS water contamination lawsuit, you must meet the below eligibility criteria: 

  • Adequate length of exposure: We usually look for claimants to have at least six months of exposure to a toxin like PFAS to build a substantial case. 
  • Related diagnosis: Claimants must have a diagnosis related to their toxic exposure at Fort Lewis. 

Again, our firm is accepting cases that involve bladder cancer, breast cancer, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, kidney cancer, leukemia, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid cancer, thyroid disease, and ulcerative colitis.

Fort Lewis Water Contamination Settlement Amounts

We anticipate Fort Lewis water contamination settlements may result in payouts ranging from $100,000 to $300,000, depending on the specifics of your case. Weak cases (such as those that lack evidence) could resolve on the lower end at $30,000-$75,000, while stronger cases (such as long-term exposure and a severe diagnosis) may reflect higher amounts like $500,000-$1,000,000. Contact us today for a better understanding of your compensation eligibility.

How to File a Fort Lewis Water Contamination Lawsuit

At King Law, we will guide you through the entire litigation process from start to finish. With our experience in toxic torts, we understand what it takes to build and execute a successful case. The process usually entails: 

  1. Confirm you have at least six months of exposure and a diagnosis of a related health condition to be eligible for a lawsuit. 
  2. Schedule a consultation with an attorney to review the details of your case and begin the filing process. 
  3. Provide your attorney with as much evidence as possible to support your case and validate your request for compensation. 
  4. Your attorney will file your case with the appropriate court and contact you with any additional requests, such as needing more information. 
  5. Ideally, your case will result in a settlement where your attorney can negotiate on your behalf. In some cases, they may recommend going to court, though this could result in no compensation if the ruling is not in your favor. 

It can take several months or more for a successful water contamination lawsuit to pay out. Your attorney will help you understand what to expect and can help you understand deadlines for filing. However, it’s critical to seek legal counsel as soon as possible to help ensure you don’t miss your compensation opportunity.

Evidence to Support Your Claim:

Evidence needed to support your Fort Lewis water contamination claim includes: 

  • Proof of your time at Fort Lewis such as military orders or discharge paperwork 
  • Proof of toxic exposure at Fort Lewis, ideally at least six months of exposure 
  • Medical records providing details of your diagnosis 
  • Any additional documentation deemed appropriate by your attorney 

An attorney experienced in environmental law will also know what testimonies, studies, and other information can bolster your claim.

Statute of Limitations for Fort Lewis Water Contamination Claims

Statutes of limitations are deadlines for when you must file a claim to be eligible for compensation. These deadlines vary based on state, type of claim, and other specifics of your case.

Fort Lewis Water Contamination Lawyers

King Law attorneys have experience handling environmental exposure cases and understand what it takes to build a strong case. We also have the resources and expertise needed to navigate the complexities of toxic torts and are dedicated to offering you unwavering compassion and support throughout the entire process. Contact us today to understand your potential for compensation. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Learn more by reading answers to frequently asked questions about Fort Lewis drinking water, PFAS contamination, and related lawsuits.

Is Fort Lewis water safe to drink?
Fort Lewis continues to test positive for toxins like PFAS with recent database records showing multiple chemicals that exceeded EWG health guidelines.
What are the toxins in Fort Lewis?
Fort Lewis drinking water toxins include PFAS, asbestos, arsenic, metals, and disinfectants. PFAS is the largest contaminant of concern.
Is Fort Lewis a Superfund site?
Yes, there are Superfund site profiles for USAF McChord Air Force Base, Fort Lewis Landfill, and Fort Lewis Logistics Center.
What is the lawsuit on Fort Lewis?
Individuals who were exposed to toxins at military bases like Fort Lewis are now suing chemical manufacturers after they were diagnosed with a related illness. Compensation can help with lost wages, treatment costs, and more.  
What are the environmental issues in Fort Lewis?
The use, storage, and disposal of chemicals and products containing toxic chemicals has led to environmental contamination of soil, air, and groundwater at and around Fort Lewis.
What are the deadlines for filing a claim in the Fort Lewis lawsuit
Deadlines to file a claim for Fort Lewis water contamination vary based on the state and type of claim.
What types of health problems are linked to the Fort Lewis water contamination?
Exposure to toxins like PFAS in Fort Lewis water can cause bladder cancer, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, thyroid disease, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ulcerative colitis, and more.  
What evidence do I need for my claim in the Fort Lewis lawsuit?
You need proof of your time and exposure at Fort Lewis, as well as proof that you were diagnosed with a related illness to file a lawsuit.
How long will the Fort Lewis lawsuit process take?
It can take several months or longer to file a Fort Lewis water contamination lawsuit, so you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to start the process.
What steps should I take if I was affected by the Fort Lewis contamination?
You should seek medical care as soon as you develop symptoms of water contamination. To pursue legal action, schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney and begin gathering the required evidence.
What kind of compensation can I expect from the Fort Lewis lawsuit?
Water contamination lawsuits often settle at around $250,000 on average. However, if you have strong evidence, a long history of exposure, and a serious disease, you could see amounts reaching closer to $1,000,000. In contrast, if your case is weak and you experienced short-term exposure with a less severe illness, you could see payouts more like $30,000-$50,000.
Is PFAS in Fort Lewis water?
Yes, recent reports indicate PFAS levels of 75 ppt in finished drinking water at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
What steps has Fort Lewis taken to address the PFAS contamination?
Fort Lewis conducts frequent water testing and has contributed to water filtration efforts on the base and in surrounding areas. The Army has also shut down wells with problematic PFAS levels.  
Who is eligible for the Fort Lewis water contamination lawsuit?
You could be eligible for a Fort Lewis water contamination lawsuit if you were exposed to a toxin for at least six months and then diagnosed with a related illness.   
How can individuals affected by the Fort Lewis water contamination file a lawsuit?
Consult with an attorney so they can review your case and confirm your eligibility. Then, begin gathering evidence to support your claim that your attorney can file on your behalf.