Well tests ongoing near MCOLF Atlantic

The U.S. Navy sampled eight more wells near Marine Corps Outlying Landing Field in Atlantic recently. Members have taken 277 samples from the area to test for a class of chemicals that may be detrimental to human health. (Dylan Ray photo)

ATLANTIC — Another round of well water sampling near Marine Corps Outlying Landing Field Atlantic was recently completed as national concern grows over a class of chemicals that may have detrimental effects on human health.

The U.S. Navy has been carrying out the well water sampling program near MCOLF Atlantic and other sites since late 2017 to test for the presence of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Test results from the most recent round of sampling in Atlantic found no additional wells contain PFAS levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion.

Gunnery Sgt. Robert White with the communication strategy and operations office at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point said eight additional wells were sampled recently, bringing the total number of wells tested in the area to 277. Of those sampled to date, two wells were found to contain trace amounts of PFAS chemical, and two had levels above the EPA’s health advisory.

The Navy has been supplying bottled water for more than a year to the one household which was found to have PFAS levels above the health advisory. Gunnery Sgt. White said they are still working to find a long-term solution for that household.

The well sampling program is voluntary and ongoing, and Gunnery Sgt. White said property owners who still wish to get their wells tested may do so by calling 877-626-5317 or completing a questionnaire found online at go.usa.gov/xR6SX. In total, the Navy identified 661 parcels containing an estimated 451 households and businesses within a 1-mile radius of MCOLF Atlantic.

PFAS substances are manmade chemicals contained in a number of consumer products, including nonstick cookware and other common household items. They can also be present in drinking water near certain facilities, such as military installations or factories. The most well-studied PFAS are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which are the two chemicals the Navy has been testing for near MCOLF Atlantic.

According to the EPA, studies indicate exposure to PFAS may lead to low infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, cancer (for PFOA) and thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS).  

The Navy became concerned over the possibility of PFAS in drinking water near its installations because the chemicals are contained in a firefighting agent known as aqueous film-forming foam that may have been used in  training operations. Records indicate AFFF was not used at MCOLF Atlantic, however, officials have stated the tests are being conducted out of “an abundance of caution.”

The Navy is now investigating the source of PFAS contamination near MCOLF Atlantic, searching through old records and conducting interviews, among other research. MCAS Cherry Point Public Affairs Officer Chrystal Smith said last week there are few updates on that front, other than the investigation is ongoing.

Meanwhile, the national conversation about PFAS is ramping up recently. According to news sources, PFAS contamination has been reported at more than 400 active and former military installations across the country, likely due to historic use of AFFF at those sites. Defense Secretary Mark Esper in July set up a task force to study the chemicals.

Outside of military bases, PFAS contamination has also been found in waterways adjacent to certain industrial uses. The chemical GenX, a type of PFAS substance, was found in high levels in the Cape Fear River near Wilmington.

Legislators in North Carolina mandated the creation of the N.C. PFAS Testing Network in recent years, as well. The network consists of researchers from N.C. State University, Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, East Carolina University and North Carolina A&T University, who receive funding through the N.C. Policy Collaboratory to test for current levels of PFAS chemicals in drinking water and air samples.

The researchers are also involved in efforts to study the effects of PFAS, research ways to reduce exposure to the chemicals and educate the public. Their work is ongoing, with more information at ncpfastnetwork.com.

For more information about the Navy’s sampling program near MCOLF Atlantic, visit go.usa.gov/xR6SX or secnav.navy.mil/eie/pages/pfc-pfas.aspx. For specific questions or concerns, call 877-626-5317 or email NavyAtlanticWater@usmc.mil.

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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