Routine maintenance reveals toxic firefighting foam in base stormwater

Routine stormwater drain maintenance at Ault Field recently led to the first discovery of a toxic firefighting foam in surface water.

The source of contamination is under investigation, according to Jaime Jensen, base environmental water program manager.

During the investigation, Navy officials found the chemicals in Clover Valley Creek, which runs along the Ault Field air field, off base and into Dugualla Bay. Contamination levels were above the EPA’s lifetime health advisory, but there is no indication it has affected drinking water.

Jensen said she was working with a contractor during maintenance in May to check the accuracy of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s GIS maps of storm water drains.

“I smelled it,” Jensen said. “… it has a sewage smell and that’s not normal for a storm drain.”

Work was immediately stopped and the investigation was launched. Jensen said the contaminated manhole and ones adjacent to it were cleaned and re-sampled in early August. On Sept. 27, she and her team sampled in Clover Valley Creek, the property line and a pump station at Dike Road.

In early October, results came back that showed the contaminates were leaving the base via the creek.

Results found 172 parts per trillion at the installation’s eastern boundary and 149 parts per trillion near the inlet to Dugualla Bay.

Navy officials say they don’t believe the drainage is seeping into ground water. They ask that anyone who uses that surface water as drinking water to contact the base public affairs officer.

The toxic chemicals found in the foam, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), are not regulated, but the EPA established health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion.

Jensen said a mitigation plan won’t be established until the source is found. This week, a camera will be sent through the drainage system to check connections and the connections of the pipes.

The public works department at the base, personnel from the Navy’s regional office and the EPA and state Department of Health are involved in the investigation.

• Anyone who uses surface water near Clover Valley Creek as drinking water should contact the base PAO at 360-257-2286 or email