Naval Air Station Meridian is asking permission from some neighbors to test drinking water wells this month as part of Navy policy to test private wells near its installations.
"Out of concern for our neighbors near the installation, NAS Meridian is requesting to test water wells for contaminants. The testing will be for PFOS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) and AFFF (aqueous film forming foam)," Capt. Scott Bunnay, NAS Meridian commanding officer, said outside the NAS main gate during a news conference Monday.
The substances could be present in the soil and or groundwater at Navy sites from previous firefighting instances. If PFAS are in the groundwater there is the possibility for the substances to also be present in private drinking water wells near NAS Meridian, according to Bunnay.
NAS Meridian has scheduled a public meeting about the initiative from 4-7 p.m. Thursday at the Hamasa Shriners Building, 5516 Dale Drive, Marion. The meeting will include representatives from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Environmental Protection Agency Region 4, Mississippi Department of Health, and other local officials who are working in partnership with the Navy.
"This proactive Navy effort aims to identify potential exposure to unregulated compounds in our neighbors' drinking water coming from private wells," Bunnay said. "The Navy is committed to sharing additional information as it becomes available throughout the testing process."
Testing is free and is scheduled from April 17-19.
"We want to make sure our neighbors are healthy," Bunnay said. "If the wells to be tested are found to be above the EPA health advisory level, We will provide bottled water."
Bunnay said the base so far had identified three wells off base to be tested.
"We only know of three wells but there could be more," Bunnay said. "If anyone has a drinking well in the area, we want to talk to them," Bunnay said. "We want to test those wells."
According to a news release, the Navy notified property owners bordering the installation and sought the cooperation of some to sampwell-drinking water for Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). In May 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a lifetime health advisory level for two PFAS compounds, specifically perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), according to the news release. The lifetime health advisory recommends that drinking water not exceed 70 parts per trillion of PFOS and PFOA, either individually or combined. If well drinking water PFOS/PFOA concentrations exceed the EPA lifetime health advisory level, the Navy will provide alternate drinking water (typically bottled water) for these residents until an alternate long-term solution is in place.
PFAS compounds are man-made chemicals persistent in the environment that are not absorbed easily in soil and could migrate into groundwater, according to the news release. PFAS has been used since the 1950s in a variety of products and substances that resist heat, stains, grease and water, such as non-stick cookware, microwaveable popcorn bag food packaging, and water resistant textiles and sprays used to treat carpets and fabrics, according to the news release.
The most common historical Navy use of these chemicals has been through the firefighting agent, aqueous film forming foam. AFFF is the most effective way to put out petroleum-based fires and is used mainly to extinguish aircraft fires. AFFF is no longer used for firefighting training, according to the news release.
In June 2016, the Navy issued a policy to identify areas of known, or potential, PFAS release to the environment. As part of this policy, the Navy is testing for PFOS and PFOA in water wells on board the installation and private water wells around NAS Meridian within one mile of sites where AFFF was used in the direction that groundwater flows, according to the news release.
"We are committed to responding in a timely manner through this process and will be involved until we complete the necessary actions. We want to be transparent as we can in our actions," Bunnay said. "We care about the health and welfare of our neighbors."
Along with NAS Meridian, installations with firefighting equipment include Gulfport and Milton, Fla., near Pensacola.
More information about the Navy's PFAS initiative and drinking water testing program may be found at: www.secnav.navy.mil/eie/pages/pfc-pfas.aspx.