City of Dayton says WPAFB is responsible for contaminants in water source
DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - The City of Dayton has sent what it calls a "tersely worded" letter to the commander of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, after it says data from a recent test shows chemical contaminants from the base are migrating toward Dayton's Huffman Dam wells.
According to city leaders, the potential contamination threat is due to base activities. The chemicals are PFAS, per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances. The chemicals are man-made and have been used in industrial and consumer products since the 1950s.
The contamination is not at a level that is considered unsafe, according to EPA standards. The EPA has set a limit for PFAS at 70 parts per trillion. The levels detected in the City of Dayton's samples are less than 10 parts per trillion. However, the city says it is taking steps to prevent its water system from being contaminated further.
Right now, the City of Dayton is working with the Ohio EPA and the U.S. EPA to find a resolution with the base. One of the steps it can take is to shut down the wells in the area where the PFAS were found, but that's just a short-term solution. Dayton Director of Water Mike Powell said there needs to be a more permanent solution, one he says "will require the Air Force to either stop the flow of PFAS from its property or treat the contaminated raw water before it becomes part of the drinking water. Unfortunately, the Air Force has not acted."
Marie Vanover, Director of WPAFB Installation Public Affairs, issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:
First and foremost, the Air Force is committed to ensuring no one is drinking water that exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency lifetime advisory. In a one year period of sampling monitoring wells, we have found only one well at the base boundary that exceeded the advisory of 70 parts per trillion, and it does not pose a risk to drinking water supplies. No continuous contamination is occurring; however, legacy contamination does exist and the Air Force has been following and will continue to follow the CERCLA process to investigate occurrences of PFOS/PFOA that may impact drinking water sources. Where we identify drinking water supplies with PFOS/PFOA at levels above the HA, we take immediate action to provide alternate drinking water supplies.
We are in the process of awarding a modification to the existing contract to continue quarterly sampling of the monitoring wells for the next two years. We are also planning to expand our site inspection and will be working with both the Ohio EPA and the City of Dayton to determine the number and location of additional monitoring wells at the base boundary in both Areas A and B. We anticipate that the contract will be awarded in May. The vertical delineation will be addressed in the hydrogeologic conceptual site model (CSM) which is being developed to evaluate the groundwater pathway. A meeting will all parties to discuss the CSM will be held later this month.
Additionally, the Air Force has replaced the legacy aqueous film forming foam in all Wright-Patterson AFB emergency response vehicles with a more environmentally friendly product. We anticipate completing replacement of foam in extinguisher systems in nine Wright-Patterson hangars by June.
The Air Force supports an Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)-led national health study to help us understand the risks of PFOS/PFOA.
Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler also released a statement regarding Wright-Patterson AFB and continued concerns related to PFAS contamination:
“The City of Dayton’s drinking water is safe. However, Ohio EPA agrees with the city’s concerns that Wright-Patterson AFB is not proactive enough in responding to PFAS contamination, traces of which are now found near Dayton’s well fields. In a Jan. 29 letter to the WPAFB Commander [attached], Ohio EPA detailed specific steps that the base must take to protect Dayton’s water supply, including improved monitoring of ground water contamination from the base and implementing measures to stop the movement of contamination closer to Dayton’s wellfields. The Agency has not yet received a formal response to that letter. Ohio has serious concerns and feels it is an unacceptable posture for Air Force leadership to simply wait until contamination exceeds the federal Health Advisory Levels in order to address the source of PFAS. We acknowledge the actions we are requiring will take time and come with significant expense. However, the health and safety of Dayton’s two million public drinking water customers are dependent on WPAFB for water. This demands that the Air Force immediately change its posture of waiting for a crisis to occur in order to take action, which is unacceptable.”
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said the Air Force needs to take immediate action, "Our primary responsibility is to protect the integrity of our water supply, and the health and welfare of our citizens."
Congressman Mike Turner said he will continue to work to make sure that the situation is addressed by the Department of Defense:
“The Mayor’s letter concerns an issue that my office has been actively working with the Department of Defense (DoD), Air Force, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to address. It affects many bases across the country and the House Armed Services and Appropriations Committees have been working to ensure appropriate action is taken by the DoD. I have additional information I think the Mayor will find helpful and look forward to working with her to ensure we maintain quality drinking water for our community.”