[Editor’s Note: Civil Air Patrol members and former members have provided reports from different areas of the country about Air Force Base contamination of the local groundwater. As Air Force leadership appears to be in denial and requiring its victims and potential victims to sue, we’ve decided to release all that we’ve been given on this topic.]
AuxBeacon Readers and CAP Members:
Don’t Drink the Water and Don’t Get Pregnant while working on a US Air Force Base. Forever chemicals are turning up in water supplies near Air Force installations all over the United States. These bases have used an Aqueous Film Forming Foam in firefighting activities for jet fuel burning airplanes that have leaked PFAS chemicals into the nation’s groundwater, wells and waterways.
When Northeastern University and the Environmental Working Group assembled an interactive map from a recent DOD report, local media started to make inquiries.
RAFB is on that PFAS contamination map and so WGXA News of Macon made an inquiry. Base officials declined to be interviewed, but stated the Robin’s drinking water was safe.
In more than a dozen other states, the Air Force has acknowledged contaminating drinking water in communities close to its bases.
In the case of Warner Robins, the Air Force provided this statement that left many doubting its veracity.
The drinking water at Robins Air Force Base is safe. The safety and health of our Airmen, their families, and our community partners are our priority.
We are members of communities where we serve and share concerns about potential PFOS/PFOA contamination. The Air Force is moving aggressively to protect drinking water supplies connected to and affected by our installations.
PFOS and PFOA are part of a family of synthetic fluorinated chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) used for a wide variety of residential, commercial and industrial purposes, including a firefighting foam called Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF). AFFF has been widely used by both commercial and military airports to extinguish petroleum fires throughout the United States. In 1970, The Air Force began using AFFF to extinguish petroleum fires, such as those associated with burning aircraft, to protect people and property.
A 2018 Defense Department report revealed trace amounts of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) in three of Robins’ five shallow groundwater wells on the nearly 7,000-acre installation. These surface groundwater wells are not associated with the base’s deep aquifer drinking water source.
Although PFOS/PFOA are unregulated, emerging contaminants, and Georgia or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have not established enforceable standards, Robins began taking steps in 2016 to replace all AFFF with a more environmentally responsible firefighting product. The Air Force has retrofitted emergency response vehicles with a nozzle to prevent unintended discharge of the new safer foam. Robins AFB has replaced the old foam in hangar suppression systems. As a further precaution, base firefighters have implemented procedures for use of the new safer foam, treating any uncontained releases as if it were a hazardous-material spill requiring immediate cleanup.
In 2009, the EPA issued provisional health advisories for PFOS/PFOA in drinking water. On May 19, 2016, the EPA established a lifetime health advisory (LHA) level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and/or PFOA in drinking water. As stated before, the drinking water at Robins AFB is safe. The installation gets its drinking water from the Blufftown aquifer, which is one of the safest, purest and most reliable sources of high-quality water in the entire state. The aquifer is 300 feet below the surface and is protected by a natural layer of clay and sediment, which filters and protects the water source.
The Air Force conducted a thorough Site Inspection at Robins AFB that showed no risk to drinking water supplies, either on or off base. The Site Inspection results showed no drinking water impacts at Robins AFB, and indicated there was not a probability, pathway or proximity to off-base drinking water supplies. We will continue to monitor shallow groundwater areas across the installation to ensure safe drinking water for our Airmen, their families and surrounding communities. We will continue to ensure Robins AFB cares for one of the purist water aquifers in the state of Georgia.
The Air Force is committed to protecting human health and the environment and handling our response actions to PFOS/PFOA in a transparent manner with our community partners and stakeholders. As we have stated before, a Site Inspection conducted at Robins AFB show no risk to human drinking water supplies on or off base and the results indicated no probability, pathway or proximity to off-base drinking water supplies. We will continue caring for one of the purist water aquifers in the state of Georgia. We will continue protecting the drinking water at Robins AFB and evaluate shallow groundwater areas for further action if needed.
PFOS/PFOA contamination of drinking water is an urgent national issue because of the uncertainty of the impacts on our health and environment. The issue requires a whole of government response to evaluate and determine solutions for health effects and the risk management of PFOS/PFOA in our nation’s products. The Air Force is proud to be a leader in the response to PFOS/PFOA contamination of drinking water, and will continue to work with our neighbors, regulators and elected officials to protect human health and our environment.
• Is the drinking water at Robins Air Force Base safe?
• Contaminated groundwater, a toxic legacy of Georgia’s air bases
• Some fear groundwater near Georgia military bases is toxic
• GEORGIA AIR BASES FIND GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION