Navy should make water contamination test results public

Editor,

The Navy should immediately make public the results of its October 2017 testing for 14 PFAS chemicals in public and private wells. It previously announced the results for two PFASs – why not the results for 14?

The Navy claims the results for Coupeville’s water are “private” and available only to Coupeville officials. Coupeville was given its results weeks ago, yet hasn’t released the information.

More sensitive detection limits were used in this testing than were used in the past. This means chemicals not previously detected may now have been detected. Coupeville’s Fort Casey well could now evidence contamination, as does the town’s main supply well next to the Navy’s Outlying Field.

The withholding of such information, supposedly for people’s own good, is not new. Coupeville began testing its water for six PFASs (perfluoroalkyl substances) in late 2016 but did not tell its water customers about the results until October 2017.

The Island County Health Department has done no testing of its own and hasn’t asked for or isn’t revealing what the Navy found in recent testing.

It’s not unusual for public officials to accommodate the needs of politically and economically influential polluters. However, we do not expect this of citizen groups that purport to be watchdogs of the public and reliable sources of information.

The fact that Whidbey’s PFAS pollution victims have no one advocating for their interests was made clear at the Whidbey Water Keepers Dec. 4 public meeting. But for a few comments by an off island speaker, the meeting at the Coupeville High School might as well have been held by the Navy.

Nothing was said at the meeting about the unreported results of Navy’s most recent testing for 14 PFASs. Whidbey Water Keepers, like the Navy, focused on two PFASs – instead of the cocktail of six already found in the public’s water.

Not mentioned was the fact that “cancer causing PFAS chemicals” in consumer products that the Water Keepers voiced concern about were likely to be found in the high school’s water fountain down the hall and the elementary school down the street.

Ann Harvey from Whidbey Water Keepers stated that there “were no red flags” in the results of the group’s May 2017 independent testing of Central Whidbey’s drinking water (Whidbey news Times, Dec. 9).

In fact, the group’s testing found PFASs in Coupeville’s water not previously reported — and at amounts that exceeded the health guidelines of a number of states. The results were never publicized.

The group also tested WhidbeyHealth Medical Center’s water but would never release the results, only acknowledging to a few people that the findings were consistent with those of Coupeville residences.

Whidbey Water Keepers knew in June 2017 that the town had been testing its water for six PFAS, something the town’s water customers weren’t told about until October.

Nothing was said at the Water Keepers’ Dec. 4 public meeting about what should be done to get PFASs out of our drinking water.

Instead, presentations directed attention away from the problem here on Whidbey, focusing instead on PFASs in consumer products and the need to work on legislative initiatives down the road.

Both are certainly worthy goals but neither will help families on Whidbey who, after a year, are still cooking and brushing their teeth with water from plastic bottles delivered by the Navy.

Neither will they get PFAS out of the water going to homes, schools and the hospital.

Not being mentioned by anyone are the behind-closed-door discussions between the Navy and select public officials about the possibilities of drilling a new well for Coupeville, adding an expensive filtration system, and extending the water supply line to some but not all families with contaminated water.

Those proposals could solve the problem – or they could stick local taxpayers with costs and a future of drinking contaminated water the Navy finds “acceptable.”

Whidbey Island needs a coalition of citizen organizations that are not afraid to challenge the Navy and unresponsive public officials – even the ones they like.

Hopefully, Whidbey Water Keepers and other citizen groups will walk their talk and begin to meet that need.

Rick Abraham

Greenbank

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