News Feature | May 30, 2017

Military PFC Contamination Extends To Pacific Northwest

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,


Residents of Washington state are concerned about water contamination caused by Fairchild Air Force Base, a military site near Spokane.
“Fairchild Air Force Base officials began testing water wells last month and discovered that many had been contaminated with chemical compounds found in the firefighting foam the base used for decades. While the Air Force works on a more permanent fix, officials have notified neighbors ... they could be using bottled water to cook and drink for months,” The Intelligencer reported
The U.S. EPA issued a health advisory last year about exposure to perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) as various regions wage high-profile battles against them, including Hoosick Falls, NY, as well as cities around the country with military bases. PFCs are industrial contaminants, and research has tied them to cancer.
“And the 70 ppt level recommended by the EPA was a dramatic decrease over the agency’s prior, short-term recommended limit of 400 ppt,” The Intelligencer reported.
Water samples near Fairchild Air Force Base have exceeded either of those limits. Military testing of local wells only began this year. 
“Some of the 17 initial wells that were found to be contaminated south of Fairchild had preliminary results (all in parts per trillion) of 226, 440, 940 and 5,700, according to residents,” the Inlander reported
The Air Force is currently providing bottled water to locals and future solutions could include connecting residents on wells to public water. 
"All options are being considered for a long-term response," said Marc Connally, Fairchild's Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s on-site remedial project manager. "Treatment of the groundwater itself is a long-term remedial action that the Air Force will propose after the Remedial Investigation is complete. This is likely to be several years in the future."
The military is in the midst of testing for contamination at hundreds of sites across the country. The effort to test nearly 400 sites has cost over $150 million, but critics say it has been "slow and seemingly disjointed," according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

To read more about PFC issues visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.
Image credit: "U.S. Air Force," David Arbogast © 2015, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: