Twenty-one wells at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base yielded water samples showing the presence of “perpetual chemicals” above the Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory levels or regional screening levels, according to the Environmental Restoration Task Force in the base.
In response to questions, however, the base said no one at Wright-Patterson drinks water with these chemicals at a concentration higher than 70 parts per trillion — a crucial EPA regulatory marker for two of the perennial chemicals, PFOS/PFOA.
In May 2016, the EPA established a lifetime health level of 70 parts per trillion for drinking water. Since then, the EPA has begun to announce a stricter standard, reducing the allowable level of the chemicals to almost zero.
“As a result of past Air Force activities, there are known concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and PFAS compounds in the groundwater that is the source of drinking water at WPAFB,” the base said. “Our drinking water systems have appropriate treatment systems that ensure concentrations of these compounds are below current regulatory drinking water standards.”
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is committed to the health and safety of the base and surrounding communities, the base said in a statement.
“Wright-Patterson Airmen, both active and civilian, and their families live in these communities and share the same concerns about safe water,” the 88th Air Force Wing said in a statement. “The Air Force Civil Engineer Center and the 88th Air Force Wing Civil Engineer Group are committed to identifying and addressing any environmental impacts and taking proactive actions to ensure that surface, groundwater and drinking water is safe. “
The issue gained new prominence last week when a group of environmentalists released an internal Defense Department study from April that concluded 175,000 military personnel at 24 installations nationwide were exposed to unsafe drinking water containing PFOA and PFOS.
Wright-Patterson was on this list of installations.
Samples from four base wells found chemicals above the EPA’s 2016 recommended lifetime levels.
And samples from 17 wells showed the presence of the chemicals above 2,022 EPA Regional Screening Levels, or RSLs, according to data obtained by the Dayton Daily News from Wright-Patterson.
RSLs are not cleaning standards and should not be applied as such, the 88th Air Force Wing said in response to questions.
Data from the June tests were presented at a Dec. 12 meeting of the Base Recovery Advisory Council.
Another water sampling is due this month, the base reports.
The Dayton Daily News requested interviews this past week with someone familiar with Wright-Patterson’s recovery efforts. A spokeswoman for the 88th Air Force Wing, the unit tasked with securing and maintaining the large Air Force base, said the answers to the questions would be given in writing.
Information provided to this newspaper shows that 12 wells yielded PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) samples above 6 parts per trillion. Five wells showed the presence of the chemical, PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate or perfluorooctane sulfonic acid), above four parts per trillion.
The toxic chemicals were once used in non-stick pans, water-repellent sports gear and military firefighting foam. The substances have been voluntarily phased out in the US, but they remain in some products and in the environment, and a Wright-Patterson spokesman said the base had switched to a different type of firefighting foam.
The American manufacturer 3M co. said on Tuesday that it will phase out the use of chemicals in its product portfolio by the end of 2025.
In March 2022, Raymond Baker, head of Wright-Patterson’s environmental branch, told this newspaper that PFOA chemicals were found in amounts above the EPA’s recommended lifetime health advisory levels at baseline sampling sites.
However, those levels were found in groundwater or surface water, not drinking water, Baker said at the time.
According to the Restoration Advisory Board, 26 baseline sites will be studied, including the installation of 79 monitoring wells, the collection of 110 groundwater samples, 220 soil samples, 26 surface or stormwater samples, and 32 sediment samples.
The base conducts quarterly sampling from 14 monitoring wells, according to the Recovery Advisory Board. Information provided by the board said the DOD “evaluates its efforts” to deal with the chemicals in anticipation of the EPA’s new, more stringent standards.
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