Groundwater Contamination Tests Begin at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst

Aug 31, 2016

A company hired by the U.S. Department of Defense has begun testing groundwater at  Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to assess potential perfluorinated compound contamination. “In response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s provisional health advisory for two forms of perfluorinated compounds (PFOS/PFOA), the Air Force has been working to identify all sites on installations where those PFCs may have been released as part of a firefighting effort or training scenario,” Air Force Civil Engineer Center Public Affairs explained.

“PFCs are a component of aqueous film-forming foam, a firefighting foam that has been used by the Air Force and other DoD components to protect people and property from fuel-based fires. As part of a comprehensive assessment process, the Air Force determined PFC-containing firefighting foam may have been released at approximately 200 installations (active, Reserve, Air National Guard and closed).”

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center is conducting sampling at each of those installations to determine whether a release has occurred and if PFCs are present in the groundwater, and, additionally, to ascertain the possibility that the contaminant has moved offsite and reached drinking water sources.

According to the New Jersey Sierra Club, PFOA has been linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children, as per a report published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “The incidence of ADHD in children is rising and so is the amount of PFOA in the water supply,” the organization noted.

If a drinking water source is identified as possibly contaminated, it will be tested, and, as the AFCEC Public Affairs states, “If the test confirms levels above the EPA’s PHA, we take immediate action to ensure people have water to drink that is not above the PHA level and begin action to address the contamination sources. All sites with a suspected PFC release will be sampled.”

Thirty bases have been tested to date, and four were found to have drinking water sources with PFC levels above the EPA PHA level, in Alaska, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania. In those cases, the Air Force responded to the effect on drinking water with a combination of filtration, bottled water and other alternate water sources, while also working to identify and implement a long-term solution.

The Air Force now limits use of the firefighting foam to emergency responses only, and in those cases immediate action is taken to ensure containment. According to AFCEC Public Affairs, “The Air Force is committed to eliminating firefighting foam containing either PFOS or PFOA from its inventory, and is finalizing a phased plan to replace existing firefighting foam inventories with recently approved PFOS/PFOA-free alternatives that still provide adequate fire protection for critical assets and infrastructure. These alternatives do contain PFCs but do not contain the two addressed by the EPA advisory.”

For more information, contact AFCEC Public Affairs at 866-725-7617 or afcec.pa@us.af.mil. —J.K.-H.

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