Newspaper editorial: Meetings are an opportunity to learn about water testing

News that the Navy will test dozens of wells on Whidbey for the presence of chemicals linked to cancer and developmental problems is undoubtedly alarming to those reliant on wells.

It’s also confusing. The chemicals in question are two long-chain perfluoroalkyl substances, perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid.

Not exactly household words.

The substances, included in firefighting foam, were not definitively considered to be hazardous to health until the Environmental Protection Agency issued a health advisory earlier this year. Municipalities and water associations don’t currently test for the chemicals.

The Navy decided to do proactive testing in the nation because the firefighting foam in question was used on bases for decades. The foam is the best way to extinguish the kind of petroleum-fueled fires present at aircraft crashes.

Wells within about a mile of Naval Air Station’s Ault Field base and Outlying Field Coupeville will be tested in upcoming weeks.

The Town of Coupeville’s main wells will be among those tested.

People have plenty of questions. How dangerous are the chemicals to children? Should families stop drinking well water? How long until results will be released? What happens if tests come back above the advisory limit?

The Navy is holding three open house meetings next week to answer such questions from the public directly.

The first meeting is 5-9 p.m., Monday, Nov. 21 in at the Oak Harbor Elementary School located at 151 Southeast Midway Boulevard.

There will be two meetings at the Camp Casey Conference Center at 1276 Engle Road in Coupeville on Nov. 22. The first meeting is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the second 5-9 p.m.

Going to a meeting, listening to the information and talking to Navy experts is the best way to get educated on the subject.

And it’s perhaps the best way to get some peace of mind.