Letter: NAS Whidbey has led the way in cleaning up contaminants

Editor,

The Jan. 7 letter to the editor of the Whidbey News-Times, “Navy should clean up its mess for the next generation” gives the impression the Navy is actively and deliberately dumping PFAS chemicals into local water sources.

This is not remotely factual, nor does it reflect Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s efforts with this problematic class of contaminants.

Less than four years ago, in May 2016, the EPA lowered PFAS advisory limits due to their environmental persistence and potential for adverse health effects.

PFAS have been used in numerous consumer products including carpets, furniture, clothing, paints, polishes, cookware, cleaning products and food packaging. They are also in fire-fighting foams for civilians and the military. The new limits prompted awareness and action by many communities, organizations and military bases across the nation.

The air station’s commanding officer took near-immediate action. He directed full transparency, ensured working relationships with elected leaders and set a tone of urgency to define the scope of the problem. They funded water treatment, are attempting more robust containment and are modernizing buildings and equipment.

Training with PFAS foam has also been halted. Plus, the DOD is aggressively funding more robust technologies for water treatment.

Nationally, the Navy leads the way on this issue, taking some of the most rapid action.

NAS Whidbey is among the bases leading the Navy.

Additionally, the letter implies the Navy is detrimental to wildlife. This is also not accurate. Several of the animals listed in the letter, plus many others, are at local carrying capacity. Similar to most military bases, wildlife benefits from the air station’s wide expanses and protected areas.

Specific to the letter’s primary concern, the Navy is a prominent sponsor for salmon conservation. Habitat efforts at the air station include restoration of the Crescent Harbor saltwater marsh in 2009 and removal of Maylor Point shore armoring in 2018.

Regionally, the Navy and its diverse partners have restored considerable critical habitats, secured numerous easements, protected thousands of acres, plus many miles of shoreline. Also, it is funding extensive salmon tracking research off of Washington’s coast.

The Navy is stepping up, as the letter desires. It is committed to our beautiful island, to regional conservation partnering and to addressing PFAS challenges.

Since 1902, the Navy League of the United States is a nonpartisan, worldwide organization. It is dedicated to informing the American people and their government about the importance of sea-services to our national defense and economic prosperity.

Steve Bristow, spokesman

Oak Harbor Navy League

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