Air Force supplying drinking water after water well contamination detected near former Texas base

By ELLYSA HARRIS | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas | Published: January 20, 2018

LUBBOCK, Texas (Tribune News Service) — Alternative drinking water supplies are being distributed to those affected by water contamination detected through a comprehensive Air Force site inspection at the former Reese Air Force Base.

So far, inspectors have identified 19 private drinking water wells and one public water well with levels of perfluorinated compounds deemed to be at or above the health advisory levels set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a statement from the U.S. Air Force.

They’re still looking for others.

Those who live within one mile of the former base and who have not been contacted for water samples are encouraged to reach out to Paul Carroll at 806-885-5010 or at paul.carroll.1@us.af.mil.

“It’s a health advisory,” said Mark Kinkade, with United States Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center public affairs. “It’s not a regulation.”

Kinkade said the levels of perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), which are present in Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), were detected during an enterprise-wide effort to detect those levels. More than 200 installations, including the former Reese Air Force Base, were inspected, according to a news release from the U.S. Air Force.

Levels of perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA) and/or perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS) and/or Perfluoropentanoic Acid (PFPeA) also found to be above the Texas Risk Reduction Program protective concentration levels but below the EPS’s lifetime health advisory levels, according to the news release.

AFFF was a component used in firefighting foam used to combat petroleum fires, Kinkade said.

According to an Air Force Response to PFOS and PFOA webpage through the U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center website, which Kinkade referred to, it has been used since the 1970s. The Air Force began replacing those formulas with different AFFF formulas determined to be “more environmentally responsible” in August 2016 and completed deliveries by August 2017.

The effects of the substances on the body are not well understood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both PFOA and PFOS are a part of chemical compounds found in everyday products like nonstick cookware and food packaging, to name a few, Kinkade said.

Inpsections of the water wells around the former Reese Air Force Base began in November 2017, according to a news release from the U.S. Air Force.

Murvat Musa, executive director of the Lubbock Reese Redevelopment Authority, said the contamination does not apply to the parties located on the former Air Force base.

“We purchase our water from the city of Lubbock we have since the Air Force left,” Musa said. “Nobody out here drinks ground water. We connect to the city water lines.”

Surrounding property owners are the ones affected, Musa said.

The former base has had water contamination issues before.

Post-remediation testing for the trichloroethylene plumes, which caused issues for drinking water wells in the area in the past, were completed two or three years ago, Musa said. Contamination from those plumes has been officially cleared.

The PFOA and PFOS contamination is unrelated, Musa said.

Drinking water wells within one mile and in the direction of groundwater flow of the former base were tested, according to the news release. Additional testing results are expected in the next week.

For additional information about the Air Force response, visit www.afcec.af.mil.

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