Could cancer-causing contaminants be in wells near NAS Jacksonville?

Navy looking for chemicals from firefighting foam possibly in groundwater

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Navy, concerned about possible contaminants in drinking water wells around NAS Jacksonville, will sample water from private wells in neighborhoods immediately north, west and southwest of the base. (See map of neighborhoods)

The Navy intends to test for the presence of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), an ingredient used in the manufacture of Aqueous Film Forming Foam, a firefighting foam used at the base. Studies have shown the chemical could cause cancer or other illnesses.

There is currently no legal requirement to test for this substance, but the Navy is said it is being proactive and wants to "ensure the safety and well being of our neighbors."

Residents who spoke to News4Jax Tuesday said they were glad the Navy would be testing their wells.

Steve Pennewell, whose property is right next to the base, said he was slightly concerned to hear there could be contaminants in his water.

"You don’t know what you’re drinking," Pennewell said. "I have an artesian well. It tastes good."

While the Environmental Protection Agency currently classifies PFAS as an emerging contaminant not subject to Safe Drinking Water Act requirements or testing, routine testing to be in compliance with current standards found similar perfluorinated compounds (PFC) levels of 0.02 and 0.04 parts per billion, below the EPA Lifetime Health Advisory level of 0.07 parts per billion.

Possible health effects of PFAS

Source: Centers for Disease Control, US Navy

In June 2016, the Navy issued a policy to identify areas of potential release of these materials to the environment.  As part of this policy, the Navy is testing for PFOS and PFOA in and around NAS Jacksonville.

The Navy will provide alternate drinking water (typically bottled water) for residents if their drinking water concentrations exceed the EPA lifetime health advisory levels for PFOA and/or PFOS.  

Information published in a DoD report shows PFC compounds were found or detected in shallow groundwater-monitoring wells at NAS Jacksonville. No surface water or shallow groundwater is used as a drinking water source.

The drinking water at NAS Jacksonville comes from the Floridian Aquifer, a limestone formation deep underground. There are three wells, all greater than 1,000 feet deep, that are used for drinking water. The station also has a water connection with Jacksonville Electric Authority to supplement the drinking water system.

The Navy has scheduled an open house to discuss the drinking water testing from 4-7 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Courtyard by Marriott, 610 Wells Road, Orange Park. The event will include informational displays along with representatives from the Navy, EPA, JEA and the Florida Department of Health.

"NAS Jacksonville is committed to providing safe drinking water to our employees and residents. If testing results indicated that drinking water was unsafe, it would be promptly communicated to installation personnel and residents until it was safe to drink," the Navy wrote in a statement on its website.

Resident Larry Kirk said he is pretty confident in the quality of in his well water.

"If not, it's too late, anyway," Kirk said.

Neighborhoods where Navy wants to test drinking wells

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