Media Release: Air Force testing Pease public, private drinking water wells for unregulated contaminants

  • Published
  • AFCEC Public Affairs
The Air Force Civil Engineer Center is testing water wells on and around the former Pease Air Force Base, N.H. for the presence of perflourinated compounds.

In May, Air Force tests indicated the presence of PFCs in the public Haven Well in Portsmouth, N.H. Subsequent tests of four other public and 23 private wells revealed one private well with elevated levels of the compounds and one with levels above the Environmental Protection Agency's provisional health advisory level. AFCEC, the agency executing the Air Force's environmental management and remediation mission, have identified seven additional private wells and testing is underway.

"After we learned about the exceedence at the public water supply well (Haven Well) in May, we immediately communicated the results to the City of Portsmouth, and they promptly shut the well down," said Dr. Stephen TerMaath, Base Realignment and Closure division chief. "Since then, we've been working closely with U.S. EPA and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and other state and local agencies to develop a long-term plan for addressing PFCs at Pease. We are currently focused on identifying other potential sources of PFC releases at other areas on the former base, and responding to them accordingly."

PFCs are a family of chemicals used in a variety of industrial and commercial items, including electronics, fabrics, and non-stick cookware. PFCs are classified as emerging environmental contaminants because they do not have established regulatory standards, but evolving science has identified potential risk to human health, and regulatory standards are under consideration. PFCs are also found in aqueous film forming foam, used by fire departments in the civilian and military sector to extinguish petroleum fires.

With Haven Well no longer being used as a source of public drinking water, AFCEC has been monitoring PFC levels in the remaining four public water wells and conducting tests every two weeks. All recent tests on these wells have indicated PFC levels are below the EPA provisional health advisory levels in public drinking water.

AFCEC took additional precautionary steps to test private water drinking wells in the nearby towns of Newington and Greenland. AFCEC surveyed nearly 750 homes within a one-mile radius of the former base to find out if the homes use a private well for drinking water or irrigation. AFCEC expects to receive results on the seven remaining wells by the end of next week.  

AFCEC contacted the homeowner upon receiving the results of the private well on Sept. 22, and delivered drinking water for the family to use while the Air Force works with environmental and health agencies to ensure the family has long term access to safe drinking water.

"This is our number one priority at Pease," said Peter Forbes, the Air Force's environmental coordinator for the former base. "We are working directly with the homeowner and keeping our partner agencies informed of our progress so we can address this issue in a timely manner."

For residences with detections of PFCs above the EPA provisional health advisory levels, AFCEC will take appropriate actions to prevent further exposure to PFCs from the private water supply, TerMaath said.

Pease AFB was officially closed in 1991 and all property transfers to the Pease Development Authority, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the New Hampshire Department of Transportation were completed in Sep 2005.

The AFCEC Installations Directorate conducts the strategic acquisition, management, and disposal of Air Force real property. The Base Realignment and Closure division manages the remediation and transfer of more than 88,000 acres of property at 40 former installations to local communities for economic development.

For more information on the Air Force's BRAC environmental cleanup program, please call 210-925-0956 or email