Wright-Patterson found PFAS levels above guidelines at three wells

Three Wright-Patterson Air Force Base wells yielded samples with concentrations of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) above 70 parts per trillion (ppt) in February, with one well located at the base boundary and two on Wright-Patterson’s Area A.

To determine if those and other sample sites pose a threat to local drinking water, more work is needed, members of the base’s Restoration Advisory Board said Monday.

“That’s why we’re evaluating the sites,” said Raymond Baker, chief of the 88th Civil Engineer Group Environmental Branch at Wright-Patterson.

Between 2016 and 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stuck to an advisory health limit of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOS and PFOA chemicals, two compounds commonly produced and used for decades. The agency has recently proposed stricter standards.

Compared to 2022 regional screening levels, 13 base wells yielded samples of Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) above 6 ppt and five wells gave samples of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) above 4 ppt, the board said.

PFOS and PFOA are PFAS chemicals. All are human-made compounds that do not occur naturally in the environment.

One site the base continues to monitor is about 100 yards from the Mad River, the board said.

“All of our monitoring wells, we sample those,” Baker said. “We sample our drinking water (base drinking water) on a monthly basis.”

“The drinking water that the base provides to the base community is below (advisory) levels. There’s no concern as far as current regulations,” he added.

The city of Dayton also regularly monitors its own water system, noted George Walters, a supervisory environmental engineer with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center.

“We’re continuously monitoring the groundwater,” Baker said.

The base conducts quarterly sampling for six PFAS compounds at 14 monitoring wells, the board said. Wright-Patterson began sampling for the chemicals in June 2016.

The Air Force is also conducting remedial investigation work at sites where aqueous firefighting foam has been used in the past or is suspected to be present.

The Air Force in March said it is on track to be the first service to meet the 2020 defense budget requirement to shut down all hangar fire suppression systems that dispensed Aqueous Film Forming Foam. Such fire suppression systems were locked out at Wright-Patterson as of March 1 this year, a spokeswoman for the 88th Air Base Wing said in May.

In all, the Air Force says it has spent some $1.56 billion to deal with PFAS contamination at some 40 installations nationally.

The foam, sometimes referred to as “AFFF,” was a fire suppressant used by military and civilian firefighters. Such foam contains PFAS chemicals.

Leaders of Dayton — the region’s largest water provider supplying drinking water to the city and hundreds of thousands of residents in Montgomery and Greene counties — say new equipment and testing procedures will filter out contaminants in the city’s drinking water supply, the Dayton Daily News reported in August.

But city officials would not tell this newspaper when that work will be done, and what they are doing in the interim.

PFAS chemicals were found in 15 local public water systems to be at levels exceeding guidelines proposed by the U.S. EPA for what’s considered acceptable in drinking water, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.

Dayton two years ago filed a $300 million lawsuit against Wright-Patterson and the U.S. Department of Defense. The Dayton Daily News reported in March that the case was transferred to a federal court in South Carolina in 2021 under a statute called “multi-district litigation.” It was consolidated with some 10,000 other PFAS-related lawsuits, where little action has taken place.

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