Air Force asking Congress how to reimburse communities for water contamination

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Air Force Under Secretary Donovan working on Wright Patterson water quality issues

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The second highest-ranking civilian leader in the Air Force says the service branch has approached Congress about how to send money to communities impacted by tainted groundwater contamination from nearby bases.

UPDATE: Dayton not included in AF request to reimburse areas for tainted water

The city of Dayton has pressed the Air Force for nearly $1 million to cover the costs of an environmental study and testing to determine the extent a firefighting foam contaminant potentially threatens the Huffman Dam well field that was shut down as a precaution last April. The city says the contamination could migrate from Wright-Patterson — which temporary shuttered two tainted wells on base — but the Air Force has said under an environmental federal law it cannot reimburse the city for its costs.

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The Air Force is working with Senate and House defense committees to put language in a future defense authorization bill that would permit reimbursement for those kinds of expenses communities may pay to cover out of pocket, according to Undersecretary of the Air Force Matthew P. Donovan.

“The Air Force wants to be good neighbors in our community and we’re very concerned about issues like this because our Air Force members are actually a part of the community, too,” he said in an interview this week at Wright-Patterson. “It’s their health that potentially could be at risk.”

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The city of Dayton has detected per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) below a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency threshold of 70 parts per trillion near the Huffman Dam well field, but has not tested the shuttered wells directly.

Dayton faces a contamination hazard at its own firefighting site, and quietly shut down five nearby water drinking wells in 2016 at the Tait’s Hill well field as a precaution, officials said. Those wells had not been tested either, but officials say the water is safe and the contaminant has not be detected in treated water.

RELATED: Wright-Patt treated tainted water in wells

“We’ll take each base and each situation as a standalone,” Donovan said. “We don’t think that there’s a one size (fits) all that going to be able to do this because different communities have different concerns and of course different situations.”