Air Force highlights actions already taken to protect water supply

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WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio – Base officials today provided the Dayton city manager today a list of actions taken by the Air Force to identify, respond to and prevent drinking water contamination linked to past firefighting activities on Wright-Patterson.

“As both the Ohio EPA and City of Dayton have stated, the drinking water is safe and we intend to continue working closely with all stakeholders to ensure it remains safe,” said Col. Bradley McDonald, 88th Air Base Wing and Installation Commander.

“Our Airmen and their families are members of this community too, and drink this water, and we share your concerns about water contaminated by legacy firefighting foam,” McDonald added.  “The Air Force is committed to protecting human health and the environment and we are working aggressively to ensure our installation and surrounding communities have access to safe drinking water.”  

“City leadership has requested the Air Force take urgent action and I can assure the Dayton community that we already have,” said McDonald.

According to base officials the Air Force’s aggressive response to potential Perfluorooctane Sulfonic Acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) drinking water contamination at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base began in 2015. PFOS and PFOA are components of many industrial and commercial products, including a legacy firefighting foam used by the Air Force and civilian airports to combat petroleum-based fires associated with aircraft fires.

In September 2015, Wright-Patterson AFB and the Air Force Civil Engineer Center identified fire training areas and crash sites where the firefighting foam - Aqueous Film Forming Foam, or AFFF - was used on Wright-Patterson AFB. Additionally, the base took an on-base well offline in April 2016 because it exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s then-provisional health advisory of 200 parts per trillion for PFOS.

In May 2016, the EPA established a lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water. Wright-Patterson responded immediately, accelerating its investigation, taking another on-base well above the revised EPA advisory offline and awarding a $2.7 million contract for a filtration unit to remove contaminates from the two offline wells. Both wells came back online in June 2017 and the water is safe to drink.

In January 2017, Wright-Patterson concluded a site inspection, including quarterly groundwater, surface water, soil and sediment sampling to verify presence or absence of PFOS/PFOA and identify possible pathways for contaminants to reach off base drinking water sources. The base also installed monitoring wells on base property, quarterly sentinel monitoring wells across the installation, and plans to expand the site inspection to further identify threats to drinking water sources on and near Wright-Patterson AFB.

In February 2017, legacy AFFF was replaced in all Wright-Patterson emergency response vehicles with a more environmentally responsible formulation; replacement of foam in extinguisher systems in nine Wright-Patterson hangars is expected to be complete in June 2018.

The Air Force expects to begin work in June 2018 on an expanded site inspection which will include continued quarterly sentinel well monitoring at the base boundary. If the site inspection determines PFOS/PFOA are migrating off the installation at levels above the EPA advisory, the Air Force will take additional actions. 

The Air Force’s investigation work and mitigation actions are in full compliance with and guided by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA, applicable state laws and the EPA's drinking water health advisory.

To ensure a comprehensive investigation into potential threats to community drinking water, the Air Force encouraged the city to investigate whether civilian fire training centers and commercial operations are impacting drinking water well fields and treatment plants.

“We are doing everything we can, and as quickly as we can, to ensure that all of our drinking water is safe. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Ohio EPA and the City of Dayton on this important issue,” McDonald said.