Virginia Senators Demand Quick Response to Water Contamination at Auxiliary Landing Field

After learning that the contamination of drinking water on and around Naval Auxiliary Landing Facility Fentress in Chesapeake, Va., is more widespread than previously reported, Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine on Friday pressed Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to swiftly address the issue and ensure the immediate needs of the surrounding community are met.

The Democratic lawmakers requested a detailed briefing on recent lab results, additional testing planned, and health assessments of service members and neighboring residents.

“We appreciate the Navy’s proactive efforts to evaluate facilities for this emergent contaminant, promptly notify the local community and deliver bottled water to areas that may have been impacted,” the senators said.

On Thursday, the Navy said it found high levels of perfluorinated compounds in two drinking wells within a half-mile of the facility. The wells were among 52 off-base wells tested for the contaminant found in foam used to fight fires. The foam has been used at the facility for decades, reported the Virginian-Pilot.

The level of contaminants in the two wells exceeded an Environmental Protection Agency provisional health advisory. The agency doesn’t regulate perfluorinated compounds, but it considers them an “emerging contaminant” that could threaten health or the environment. The EPA is studying the contaminants to figure out whether regulations for acceptable levels are needed, according to the story.

In January, the Navy advised employees at Fentress to use only bottled water.

The Associated Press reported last week that DOD plans to conduct tests at 664 sites across the nation where perfluorinated compounds may have contaminated groundwater and possibly spread to drinking water.

The Navy so far has found elevated levels of the contaminant at Fentress and Naval Weapons Station Earle, N.J. At the New Jersey site, officials found high levels of the chemicals in the groundwater monitoring wells but not in the drinking water supply.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen
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