It’s been over a year since Perfluoroalkyl substances from Navy’s Outlying Field and Ault Field were found in public and private water supplies. These chemicals don’t break down in the environment, accumulate in the body, and have been linked to a host of health problems
Coupeville’s contaminated water is still distributed to schools, homes and the hospital. Levels of PFASs still exceed the health advisories of a number of states. Families who abandoned contaminated private wells a year ago are still drinking, cooking and brushing their teeth with water from plastic bottles delivered by the Navy. It has not delivered on the “long term solution” it promised.
The Navy’s PFAS investigation has been neither pro-active nor transparent.
After finding PFASs in its own water in 2016, the Navy began testing public and private wells for only three PFASs. It did not test for PFHpA and PFHxS, two chemicals it found in its own water. When the Navy tested the community’s water it used higher detection limits than were used on its own property. Doing so allowed lower concentrations of PFASs in the community to go undetected.
The Navy is not alone in keeping the public in the dark. The Town of Coupeville first tested its water for PFASs in November of 2016 but waited until October of 2017 to tell its water customers about all that were found, including PFHpA and PFHxS. Studies have linked perfluorohexane sulfonate to immune system suppression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children.
It takes 8.5 years for the body to rid itself of half the PFHxS it accumulated. Whidbey’s pollution victims report high levels in their blood.
In October of 2017, the Navy retested drinking water wells, this time with more sensitive detection limits and for 14 PFASs. However, this testing was only available to owners of wells where a PFAS was previously detected. Wells adjacent to a property where a PFAS was detected above EPA’s advisory limit were eligible for retesting, but not those with lower detection.
The Navy’s flawed investigation ignores the realty of migrating contamination that can impact wells not previously contaminated. The well at the county’s Rhododendron Park is close to the OLF and Coupeville’s contaminated supply well. Yet, it has not been tested since December of 2016 – and never for all the PFASs known to be in the aquifer. The waters supplying the many homes at Crockett Lake Estates and Admirals Cove were not retested.
Our politicians are not the first to accommodate polluters with political and economic clout. Nor are they the first to keep information from the public, supposedly for the public’s own good. Solutions to our PFAS problem are being discussed behind closed doors and without the participation of all “stakeholders.” This can lead to the polluter-friendly “solutions” that allow for contaminants to remain at “acceptable” levels and remediation costs being shifted to taxpayers.
We can stop adding PFASs to our body burden. They can be removed from drinking water. Contaminated wells can be filtered or relocated and those at risk can be protected. These things aren’t likely if citizens don’t insist on being at the table with the Navy to decide on solutions.