EPA asks Wright-Patterson to speed up clean up of drinking water wells

Ohio EPA fears Dayton drinking water could be at risk.


This newspaper has followed the water issue problems at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base since we first reported it on May 20. For the latest developments and continued plans to correct the problems, visit myDaytonDailyNews.com.

A state agency has directed Wright-Patterson to expedite the removal of contamination in two drinking water wells out of concern a plume of contamination might one day reach the city of Dayton’s water production wells near Huffman Dam.

In a June 2 directive, Ohio EPA director Craig W. Butler told 88th Air Base Wing commander Col. John M. Devillier of “additional work needed” to prevent perfluoroalkyl substances detected in groundwater from contaminating additional drinking water wells at Wright-Patterson and potentially reaching the city of Dayton’s seven drinking water production wells at Huffman Dam.


May 26: Wright-Patt shuts down another problem well

May 23: Wright-Patterson yet to decide if it will shut down contaminated wells on base

May 20: Wright-Patt ordered to shut down well


The two contaminated drinking wells in Area A at Wright-Patterson taken offline in recent days pose “a continued threat to the public health from the potential plume emanation to the city of Dayton well field,” the EPA letter said.

Ohio EPA directed the base to submit water testing samples pulled from the area of concern within a week. If additional contamination is found, the EPA directed further actions to determine the extent of and to prevent further contamination.

Water samples at two wells in Area A at Wright Patterson showed levels of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perflurooctaonic acid (PFOA) above a recently set U.S. EPA threshold of 70 parts per trillion, Ohio EPA said. The finding led to a drinking water advisory last month for pregnant or lactating women and bottle-fed infants. Exposure to the substances have been linked to possible adverse health effects in infants, but adults — other than those listed in the advisory —can continue to drink tap water, according to the EPA.

The city of Dayton has not detected PFOS or PFOA contaminants in Huffman Dam drinking production wells nor in its water distribution system, according to Michele Simmons, the city’s environmental director in the water department.

“This is not an imminent threat to our well field,” she said Friday. “This is something we want to plan … to prevent from entering our well field.”

Since late May, Wright-Patterson has offered bottled water to those affected on base and to Wright-Patterson Medical Center patients.

The chemical agent PFOS was used in military firefighting suppressant foam.

The base volunatrily closed one well in April and shut the second May 26. The EPA issued an emergency closure order last week when Wright-Patterson did not immediately close the second well within days of initial notification while base civil engineers evaluated the impact on water pressure needs.

The two contaminated wells are more than two miles to the nearest city production well at Huffman Dam, Simmons said.

Determining location

Ohio EPA has asked Wright-Patterson to determine if the plume is moving and where it might be headed, said Heidi Griesmer, a state EPA spokeswoman.

“The hydrology would indicate it would be moving toward Dayton but we need actual data,” Griesmer said. “We’re asking them to put that on a fast track so they can look at that now and get information as soon as possible.”

The military base does not have data to determine the direction of any potential plume, Wright-Patterson spokeswoman Marie Vanover said in an email Friday. However, she added, a “contract is in place and a work plan is being developed that will be submitted to the Ohio EPA and the U.S. EPA in August” to find answers.

The base had already planned to test boundary sentry wells and monitoring wells downstream that detect contamination in groundwater “as expeditiously as possible” to determine if contaminants had entered the area of concern, she said.

Wright-Patterson planned to install a temporary water filtering system for the two contaminated wells while it investigates a long-term solution, she said. It also has started monthly sampling of four drinking wells still in operation in Area A and at the brick housing area, Child Development Center in Area A and in a west ramp location near the 445th Airlift Wing.

The city will work with the Ohio EPA to determine what steps to take in response to its findings, Simmons said. “We work very closely with EPA to monitor everything coming downstream from Wright-Patterson,” she said.

Dayton and Wright-Patterson have cooperated for years to protect the city’s water supply, she said.

The city samples the seven drinking wells near Huffman Dam annually, but plans to increase how often it tests once it determines EPA findings of Wright-Patterson’s upcoming tests, she said. The city’s 18 to 20 groundwater monitoring wells in the area, meant to detect contamination prior to reaching a drinking production well, are sampled twice a year. Water in the distribution system to consumers is tested daily during the work week, she said.

The base also has a network of monitoring wells, some of which it had EPA approval to shut down in recent years. In its directive Friday, EPA called on Wright-Patterson to evaluate its monitoring well network and add additional wells if needed if contamination is detected.

Deemed an EPA Superfund site, base environmental officials have worked for years and the Air Force has spent millions of dollars to clean up contaminated sites on the more than 8,100-acre base.

The Ohio EPA issued the June 2 directive under a decades-old administrative order reached with Wright-Patterson in 1988.