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DAYTON, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — Wright-Patterson Air Force Base recently sampled 22 private drinking water wells in nearby neighborhoods to determine the levels of a group of contaminants known as forever chemicals.

The testing, officials said, is part of the Air Force's ongoing efforts to ensure that the toxins remain below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recommended levels for PFAS. The contaminants have been detected in multiple drinking water systems throughout the Dayton region.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense hosted its first online PFAS forum on July 14.

PFAS — or per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances — has been linked to multiple health issues, including cancer and increased cholesterol levels. Pregnant and nursing women, infants and children, and others who have a compromised immune system might be at a higher risk of health effects from PFAS exposure.

Wright-Patt's well sampling process started in late April, when the Air Force Civil Engineer Center surveyed 405 properties in two areas near the base and identified the wells that would be sampled. Twenty were in the area near where a Harrier aircraft crashed in 1997 shortly after taking off from the base. The crash site is at the Interstate 70 and Interstate 675 intersection in Fairborn.

The remaining two wells sampled were in an area between Wright-Patt, the Mad River and the city of Dayton Fire Training Center, located at 200 McFadden Ave.

All samples collected were below the EPA recommended action level of 70 parts per trillion, said David Iacovone, the Air Force Civil Engineering Center's project manager.

The Air Force notified the Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Health about the results on July 6, he said. In addition, Iacovone's team is preparing a report that will be sent to the Ohio EPA, ODH and the three impacted county health departments — Greene, Montgomery and Clark. A copy of the report will also be placed on the Air Force Civil Engineer Center administrative record, which will be available to the public.

"Although (PFAS) are unregulated compounds, this off-base sampling is an example of the efforts the Air Force is taking to protect human health," Iacovone said. "We are addressing (PFAS) in drinking water because it is the most direct route to human consumption, and the EPA has issued a lifetime health advisory for (PFAS) in drinking water. (PFAS) in finished drinking water at Wright Patterson AFB is below the EPA's health advisory, and we continue to work with regulators to ensure drinking water is protected."

In addition to sampling private wells, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center is conducting an investigation that will help officials determine the nature and extent of PFAS flowing from the base, he added. The investigation is part of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, which is not required for forever chemicals. CERCLA, also known as Superfund, was created to set aside money for cleaning up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.

The information collected will provide data to determine if base officials and the U.S. Department of Defense need to take action, and the best courses of action, Iacovone said. In the meantime, WPAFB and the Air Force have implemented several measures to ensure their mission activities are not a source of PFAS exposure, he said. Some of those measures include using firefighter foam that does not contain PFAS, restricting use of the foam to emergency use and controlled exercises in appropriate facilities and promptly removing foam when discharged in emergency response.

Despite those efforts, the city of Dayton in May filed a $300 million lawsuit against Wright-Patt and DOD. The suit alleges the base consistently violated environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, and water contaminated with forever chemicals above the recommended action level continuously flow into the city's Mad River Wellfield.

Several hotspots, including a storm water outfall that passes through the base into the river, have PFAS levels of 600 ppt, Mike Powell, the city's Department of Water director, has said.

The Defense Department is grappling with the PFAS issue, which has impacted many of its installations and their communities nationwide. As a result, the department launched the online PFAS forum. They hope it will help increase communication with affected communities and other stakeholders. The forum is also aimed at improving transparency regarding the Pentagon's PFAS related activities.

"We are intent on making sustained progress on all PFAS challenges," Richard G. Kidd, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment and energy resilience, said in a statement. "We will continue to invest in science and technology, and we will demonstrate a commitment to clear and constructive dialogue with all stakeholders."

(c)2021 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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