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Navy to retest well water near Fentress for contaminants

An F/A 18 Hornet performs a touch-and-go landing at Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress on Oct. 16, 2012.

JOHN LAND/U.S. NAVY

By BROCK VERGAKIS | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: February 6, 2018

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Tribune News Service) — The Navy plans to retest well water near Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress for contaminants found in a firefighting foam that was used for decades at the airfield where fighter jets simulate landings on aircraft carriers.

The Navy said it is contacting homeowners near the airfield in rural Chesapeake for permission to sample their well water for perfluorinated compounds that were first found at Fentress and some nearby properties in 2016. The Navy has been providing bottled water for workers at Fentress and residents who have elevated levels of the compounds in their wells.

The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't regulate PFCs, but it considers them an "emerging contaminant" that could threaten health or the environment. Some studies have indicated the compounds increase the risk for cancer in animals and damage to human liver cells, and an association with thyroid disease. Other studies have shown that exposure may cause elevated cholesterol levels and low birth weight in humans.

The EPA is studying the contaminants to determine whether regulations for acceptable levels are needed. A provisional health advisory level is in place for now.

The Navy plans on testing wells near Fentress through Feb. 16 and will notify residents of their personal drinking water sample results in April.

Meanwhile, Naval Air Systems Command, the Naval Research Laboratory in Arlington and a private firefighting foam manufacturer each are researching the development of a PFC-free firefighting foam, which the Defense Department believes would reduce the environmental impact of training while keeping personnel safe. The research will cost $2.5 million and is expected to be completed in 2020.

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