Navy testing for PFAS

SOIL SAMPLES: Danielle Coulombe, an environmental scientist with Navy contractor AECOM, weighs a soil sample Dec. 4, 2018, on Andersen Air Force Base in Yigo to test for Agent Orange. Additional soil testing is being conducted on the base, but this time to evaluate the presence of perfluoroalkyl substances, another possible contaminant. U.S. Navy file photo

The Navy has recently conducted soil sampling on Guam in various sites to test for the presence of perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. This is being done in accordance with Navy policy and the Environmental Restoration Program, a Navy initiative, according to Catherine Norton, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas public affairs officer.

"The objective of the investigation is to evaluate areas where PFAS are suspected or known to have been stored, handled and potentially released to the environment," Norton said.

"Since PFAS is a key component in aqueous film-forming foam, facilities and sites were identified that may have had spills or leaks from storage and handling, application during training exercises or actual emergency response actions," she added.

These sites include current and former Navy fire stations that were in contact with aqueous film-forming foam, firefighting training areas, landfills, crash and accident sites, water wells and reservoirs, industrial facilities using PFAS in metal plating operations, buildings with fire suppression systems containing aqueous film-forming foam, the fuel tank farm, hazardous waste storage areas and wastewater treatment facilities.

Soil testing at Andersen Air Force Base facilities will occur after the completion of a preliminary assessment that will identify areas of concern, Norton added.

The Water and Environmental Research Institute has conducted its own preliminary research and found areas of relatively high PFAS concentration in central Guam. Two contaminated water wells in the area contain the highest levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate, a type of PFAS.

Contamination may be coming from urban runoff as well as sewage contamination. However, WERI researchers also will look at the use of firefighting foam in the area, as it remains the main source of perfluorooctane sulfonate.

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