Banned herbicide found in water on U.S. bases in U.K.
RAF MILDENHALL, England — Officials are working to figure out how a herbicide commonly used in the States but banned in the United Kingdom got into the water systems at four Air Force bases in England last month.
Dalapon, a herbicide that controls the growth of vegetation around crops, was confirmed Nov. 29 in the water supply systems of RAFs Alconbury, Molesworth, Menwith Hill and Croughton, according to a statement issued this week by the 501st Combat Support Wing, the unit that oversees the geographically diffuse installations.
The results were from an Oct. 2 test, and a public notification program began Friday, according to 501st spokeswoman Tech. Sgt. Kristina Barrett, who added that the water is safe for normal use.
“There’s absolutely no danger at all,” she said.
Dalapon is not known to cause any health problems when people are exposed to it for short periods, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
To have any effect, a person would have to drink more than 150 gallons of contaminated water a day for every 10 pounds of body weight, according to the 501st statement.
The U.K. banned the herbicide in recent years, but it’s still used in the U.S. How it got into the base water supply here remains a mystery, Barrett said.
“They don’t know where it’s coming from,” she said.
Wing commander Col. Kimberly Toney said in the 501st statement that “no suspicious or malicious activity is suspected at this time.”
Though the Dalapon levels that were found carry no related health risks, public notification must occur under U.K.-U.S. agreements, according to the wing statement.
Barrett said Dalapon is not used by anyone on the bases. Samples are again being tested to determine an origin.
Barrett said the herbicide may have entered the water at some point during the treatment process, but it was too early to say for certain.
Dalapon is broken down by natural microbes usually within a few months of leaching into soil or water, according to the EPA.
The colorless liquid is used in the States to control grasses that grow around a variety of crops, according to the EPA. It’s also applied to lawns, drainage ditches, along railroad tracks and other industrial areas.