Whidbey Water Keepers

Whidbey Water Keepers


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Articles reproduced from the press. Primarily the Whidbey Island newspapers. Links are included for the original articles online where available.

Articles from the press in other communities can be found in the Other Communities page of this website.

Date Article Published
03/03/17 Navy releases OLF water test results, sets meetings Whidbey News-Times
05/12/17 Admiral's Cove well tests come back clean Whidbey News-Times
02/23/17 Navy starts second phase of well testing Whidbey News-Times
02/6/17 Military Bases and Fire Fighting Foam Civilian Exposure
01/27/17 Navy starts second phase of water testing, sets community meetings Whidbey News-Times
01/27/17 Town to hold EIS workshop Tuesday Whidbey News-Times
01/20/17 Chemical plume in groundwater extends from Navy base to city Whidbey News-Times
01/17/17 Many in Navy's water testing area haven't signed up Whidbey News-Times
12/16/16 Navy confirms wells near Ault Field, OLF Coupeville contain chemicals South Whidbey Record
12/07/16 Traces of firefighting chemical show in town well testing Whidbey Examiner
3/10/16 The military plans to examine whether chemicals from firefighting foam may have contaminated groundwater at 664 sites nationwide, officials say U.S.News

Admiral's Cove well tests come back clean

Navy starts second phase of water testing, sets community meetings

by Jessie Stensland Whidbey News-Times, Fri Jan 27th, 2017

The Navy is beginning an expanded second phase of sampling to determine if a chemical found in firefighting foam is in drinking water wells on North and Central Whidbey Island.

Officials are also planning more community meetings to discuss the results of the first phase of testing, which identified eight wells with levels of the contaminant in excess of the Environmental Protection Agency's lifetime advisory limit.

The first meeting is from 4-7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 15 at the Coupeville High School commons. The second is 5-8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 16 at Oak Harbor High School. The meetings are workshop-style with $quot;subject matter experts$quot; from several agencies available to answer questions, said Mike Welding, Navy public affairs officer.

Last November the Navy started sampling wells within a one-mile radius of sites on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island's Ault Field and the Outlying Field Coupeville. The impetus was the EPA's decision last year to set a lifetime advisory level for the chemicals, followed by a directive from top Navy leaders that called for all Navy bases to look into the possibility of the contaminants in drinking water.

Perflourinated compounds, specifically perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid, were used in some firefighting foam as well as a whole host of other items. The chemicals may be hazardous to human health. Initially, the Navy took 132 samples and found that eight exceeded the advisory level; only one was from the Ault Field area. The results have been validated, according to Dina Ginn, environmental restoration manager with Navy Facilities Engineering Command.

Navy officials made a second request for property owners to volunteer for the well water testing earlier this month and 40 signed up. Results for ten samples came back this week and none of them exceeded the advisory level, according to Kendra Leibman, remedial project manager with Navy Facilities Engineering Command.

The Navy is providing drinking water to affected homes as a short-term solution until a long-term solution is implemented. Lehman helped deliver bottled water to the homes and encountered concerned residents and provided them with fact sheets as well as contact information for a toxicologist. $quot;One of the most common questions was about their exposure over the past how many years,$quot; she said.

Ginn said a long-term solution for the homeowners may involve hookups to unaffected wells, new wells that draw from a different aquifer or water treatment.

In the second phase, the area of the testing will be expanded to a half mile down gradient from the wells with test results that exceed the advisory level, Ginn said. The owners of wells in those areas will soon receive letters requesting access for sampling.

Ginn said the test results won't just identify wells with levels over the advisory level, but they will provide scientists with information key to understanding the aquifers in the areas. She said a third phase is possible; the results will determine future steps.

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Town to hold EIS workshop Tuesday

by Megan Hansen Whidbey News-Times, Tue Jan 17th, 2017

Coupeville Town Council will hold a special workshop to discuss the town's response to the Navy's draft Environmental Impact Statement 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, in the Island County Commissioner's Hearing Room.

Council members will have the comments that were prepared by the two consultants hired to review the document for the town.

The idea is to try to come up with an initial list of concerns that the council can pair down from there, said Town Planner Owen Dennison.

Workshops are open to the public, but public comment is generally not taken. No action can be taken during a workshop.

Comments for the Navy EIS are due by Friday, Feb. 24.

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Chemical plume in groundwater extends from Navy base to city

by Jessie Stensland Fri Jan 20th, 2017

A mile-long plume of a chemical that's a likely carcinogen has migrated in groundwater from a contaminated site at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island to within Oak Harbor city limits.

Plume map
Graphic provided by the Environmental Protection Agency A graphic shows a plume of 1,4-dioxane in groundwater, pictured in yellow, extending from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island into the City of Oak Harbor. The Navy plans of treating the plume, which does not affect any drinking water wells.

Click for a large version that is North oriented.

No drinking water wells are in imminent danger since the residents in the area are all hooked up to city water, which is piped in from the Skagit River.

Still, government agencies don't want the plume of 1,4-dioxane to continue its southward creep under the city.

$quot;Human health is protected in the short term,$quot; said Harry Craig, remedial project manager for the Environmental Protection Agency. $quot;This is about environmental cleanup over the long term.$quot; JUST HOW far into the city the plume extends is still unknown.

Craig said scientists are asking the public for help identifying old wells that might exist south of the plume. Testing those wells will have delineate the edge of the plume.

The plume is in the northeast part of town, roughly between Maple Leaf Cemetery and the highway and possibly into the area around Northeast Sumner Drive

Doug Kelly, hydrogeologist for Island County, said it's very likely that there are wells the county doesn't know about in the area because records weren't kept of their locations years ago.

Anyone who knows the location of old wells in the area should leave a message at 360-396-1030.

THE NAVY was originally scheduled to have completed a proposed plan for dealing with the 1,4-dioxane contamination a couple of months ago, but the project was pushed back because testing for perfluorinated compounds, specifically perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid, in civilian drinking water wells on North and Central Whidbey took priority, Judy Smith of the Environmental Protection Agency said.

The plume of 1,4-dioxane — not to be confused with dioxins — spawns from Area 6, a capped landfill on the Ault Field base with adjacent areas once used as a dumping ground for liquid industrial waste, according to Craig.

In 1992, the Ault Field base was declared a Superfund site with nine areas of contamination divided into five $quot;operable units.$quot; A Superfund site is a polluted area designated by the federal government as requiring long-term cleanup.

AREA 6 IS the site of an ongoing cleanup effort. The description of the Area 6 pollution in the 1993 $quot;Superfund Record of Decision$quot; is chilling. From 1969 to 1988, many different types of hazardous waste were dumped and stored in pits, trenches and landfill in the 260-acre site at the southeast corner of the Ault Field base. That included 2.2 million gallons of liquids and sludge, between 300,000 and 700,000 gallons of acids and solvents, an estimated 100,000 to 600,000 gallons of oily sludge, and unknown quantities of oils, asbestos and other hazardous waste.

Neighboring homes had to abandon wells in the 1990s and the Navy paid for them to be connected to city water line.

The primary contaminants of concern were volatile organic chemicals present in the solvents that were dumped.

The Navy installed extraction wells to treat the groundwater beneath Area 6 through an air stripping system.

Air stripping is the process of moving air through water in an above-ground system to remove the volatile organic chemicals by evaporating them, according to the EPA's $quot;A Citizen's Guide to Air Stripping.$quot;

The treatment has worked. Maps of the chemicals in groundwater show two plumes of volatile organic chemicals have decreased dramatically over the years.

TESTING AND TREATING the water for 1,4-dioxane wasn't part of the original treatment plan as the chemical wasn't considered a chemical of concern in the early 1990s, but appeared on the EPA's radar in the early 2000s. Its presence was first discovered at Area 6 in 2003. Since then, experts have been testing wells in the area to map the dimensions of the subterranean plume and the Navy has been investigating ways to treat the water for the chemical.

Craig explained that 1,4-dioxane was used to stabilize solvents. It can't be treated with an air stripper system and is very mobile in groundwater.

The EPA considers 1,4-dioxane as being likely to cause cancer. Animal studies showed increases in tumors of the nasal cavity, liver and gall bladder. The EPA established a daily health advisory level in drinking water of 0.4 milligrams per liter for adults.

Navy officials, Craig said, are considering an advanced oxidation system — possibly using peroxide, ozone or ultraviolet light — to treat extracted water contaminated by 1,4-dioxane.

$quot;The idea is to get in front of the plume and treat it,$quot; said Ted Repasky, a hydrogeologist with the EPA.

THERE ARE a couple of potential wrinkles with the plan, according to Craig.

The EPA wants the water in Area 6 to also be tested for perfluorinated compounds, which are in some firefighting foam and can also leach from landfills, he said. The Navy took samples from more than 100 wells in North and Central Whidbey in the last few months and found eight with preliminary levels above the EPA's lifetime health advisory level.

If perfluorinated compounds are present at a certain level, the EPA would like the water to be treated for them as well. The problem, if the chemicals are present, is that they can only be removed from water with granular activated carbon, which could make the treatment more complex.

IN ADDITION, Craig said the water should also be tested for bromide, a relatively benign chemical present in seawater. The potential complication is that the oxidation process which removes 1,4-dioxane from the water can turn bromide into bromate, which is more toxic.

Mike Welding, public information officer at NAS Whidbey, explained that the Navy and EPA are working together to identify the best treatment technology for the situation.

After additional water testing this year, the Navy will create a $quot;focused feasibility study$quot; followed by a proposed plan, which will summarize the alternatives studies and highlight the key factors that lead to the identification of the preferred alternative, Welding said.

The public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the proposed plan. The Navy will then document the decision in an amendment to the 1993 Record of Decision.

Trestment Plant
Photo provided by the Navy An extraction system treats groundwater at Area 6.

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Many in Navy's water testing area haven't signed up

by Jessie Stensland Tue Jan 17th, 2017

The Navy reports that numerous Whidbey residents in the area where officials want to test water wells have still not signed up for the free testing.

Preliminary results are back from the 132 wells that were tested and eight of them were found to have levels of potentially toxic chemical above the EPA's lifetime health advisory level, the Navy reported.

$quot;Initially, the Navy notified people in the sampling areas by letter to arrange sampling and will make a concerted second effort to contact these residents,$quot; a Navy press release states. $quot;The Navy strongly encourages residents in the sampling area to have their wells sampled.$quot;

The Navy started testing about two months ago for emerging contaminants — perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA — which are chemicals present in firefighting foam. The EPA set the lifetime advisory level for the chemicals last year.

The Navy started testing private and municipal wells near Naval Air Station Whidbey Island's Ault Field base and Outlying Field Coupeville after tests showed water at a former firefighting training area on base far exceeded the advisory level.

More people have signed up for testing near the field on Central Whidbey even though there is a greater population in the testing area on North Whidbey. The Navy is expected to test the three community wells in Admiral's Cove this week, Gary Winlund of the Admiral's Cove Water District said Tuesday night. That district serves nearly 500 residences.

Navy officials emphasize that testing is free and that results are not being shared with the public, beyond generalized information about the number of wells affected.

The Navy is providing clean drinking water to residences with contaminated wells. Officials said the Navy will provide a permanent sources of clean drinking water to the homes if the Navy is determined to be the cause of the contamination.

Navy officials said it is too early to speculate about the cause of the contamination.

The Navy received 77 preliminary sample results from properties near OLF Coupeville. Seven of those were above the lifetime advisory level. One well is shared between two residences, so a total of eight residences are affected near OLF Coupeville.

The Navy received 55 preliminary results from properties near Ault Field and one sample result is above the lifetime health advisory, the Navy reported. The Navy is working to validate the data. Officials said they will update property owners on the verified results as they become available.

If you know that you do fall in the sampling area, or suspect you might, and want to have your well tested, call 360-396-1030, and a Navy representative will call you back to make arrangements.

The Navy is planning a second round of community meetings on the issue in mid-February.

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Navy confirms wells near Ault Field, OLF Coupeville contain chemicals

by Jessie Stensland Whidbey News-Times, Fri Dec 16th, 2017

A water sample from a well at a former fire training area at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island tested for a potentially toxic chemical at more than 800 times the EPA's lifetime advisory level.

The fact caused a stir during a meeting Thursday night that drew well over 100 people who crowded into seats and lined the walls at the Pacific Rim Institute in Central Whidbey.

Meeting Attendees
Over 100 people attended a public meeting regarding chemicals at a former fire training area at Naval Air Station Whidbey on Thursday at the Pacific Rim Institute in Central Whidbey.

The meeting was held by residents concerned about the Navy's ongoing testing of drinking-water wells on Whidbey Island. The Navy confirmed this week that three private wells near the Outlying Field Coupeville and one near the Ault Field base near Oak Harbor tested above the lifetime advisory level for chemicals found in firefighting foam.

The EPA set a lifetime advisory level earlier this year for perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid at 70 parts per trillion. Central Whidbey residents Steve Swanson and Richard Abraham led the meeting to discuss the findings and the ongoing testing. Swanson, a retired ER physician, was one of the people whose well tested above the advisory level.

He said his well tested at 440 parts per trillion.

This is why, he surmised, that two wells near each other may have different levels of the chemical.

The chemicals are excreted from the body very slowly, Swanson explained. The only way to get rid of a concentration in the body is to drink water that is completely free of the chemicals.

Abraham spoke about the history of the chemicals and other areas that were contaminated. He said he spent a career running organizations and providing assistance to organizations responding to toxic pollution problems.

$quot;What has happened to you has happened in other communities,$quot; he said.

As several people pointed out, Navy officials have said they don't know if the Navy is responsible for the contamination. The chemicals were in many items, such as Teflon pans and fast-food wrappers. Some people, for example, have pointed to the closed landfill near OLF Coupeville as a possible cause.

Island County Public Health Director Keith Higman, however, said it seems unlikely that a landfill could be the source of this type of contamination. Higman said the amount of the chemicals in foam is much higher than in other sources.

The Health Department is investigating whether fire departments on the island may have used the foam, particularly in training, he said. It's likely that fire districts used the product, called aqueous film forming foam, in the past. It's used to smother petroleum-fed fires, according to Chief Ed Hartin, with Central Whidbey Fire &Rescue.

The department now uses foam that doesn't contain the two chemicals.

Firefighters at the Navy base also no longer use foam containing the chemicals for practice, but they do still carry them in case of an aircraft crash, according to a state Health Department official.

Several meeting attendees suggested the cause of the contamination may be, at least in part, related to a Prowler crash at OLF Coupeville in 1982. One speaker said a witness remembered seeing foam being used on the crash.

Investigators are still looking into that report, but were told that firefighting foam was not used on the crash because it occurred in a heavily wooded area, according to Mike Welding, public affairs officer for NAS Whidbey.

The witness said firefighters had trouble getting to the plane and the fire was extinguished before they finally arrived.

Welding said officials would like to speak to anyone who remembers the crash or who may have witnessed the use of the foam.

Navy hydrogeologists will be investigating the sources of the contamination; they will be mapping test results to figure out how water flows underground.

The Navy promised to supply people with an alternative source of clean drinking water if their wells are tested at above the advisory level.

Higman said he doesn't know what may happen, as far as liability, if the source turns out to be something unrelated to the Navy.

He emphasized that the two chemicals are unregulated and that the level set by the EPA is just an advisory.

The Navy isn't required to conduct the well tests, but is doing so at bases nationwide as a proactive precaution and to be a good neighbor, Higman said.

The Navy base will issue updated testing results each Tuesday, Welding said.

Information released will include the number of wells at Ault Field and OLF Coupeville that are found have concentrations of the chemicals above the advisory level.

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Traces of firefighting chemical show in town well testing

by Megan Hansen Whidbey Examiner, Wed Dec 7th, 2016

Results from the Town of Coupeville's independent testing of its water supply for Navy firefighting chemicals at Keystone and Fort Casey wells came back this week.

Mayor Molly Hughes said in a press release today that one of the two chemicals tested for was found at the town's Keystone well.

The Environmental Protection Agency's lifetime health advisory level recommends that the combination of the two compounds, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), in drinking water should not exceed 70 parts per trillion.

Perfluorooctane sulfonate was not detected in any of the four wells tested.

$quot;No PFOA was detected in the three wells at Fort Casey,$quot; Hughes said in the press release. $quot;Two different samples were taken at the Keystone well and showed PFOA at 62 ppt and 59 ppt.$quot;

The independent testing was conducted with the assistance of the Washington State Department of Health, and also included testing the town's water at the entry point to the town's distribution system after water from all four well has been blended.

Two different samples show perfluorooctanoic acid registering at 25 ppt and 27 ppt.

All results, both at the Keystone well and at the point to distribution, were below the EPA's lifetime health advisory level, the release states.

$quot;This week, the Navy took separate samples from our four wells, and at entry point to distribution,$quot; Hughes said. $quot;Their results should be available shortly. We anticipate this redundancy in testing will further verify the town's independent testing.$quot;

$quot;Although the town wells tested below the EPA's lifetime health advisory levels, for these two non-regulated compounds, we will continue to work with our public health partners in Island County and the state Department of Health to determine what steps, if any, are needed to monitor the water provided by the Town of Coupeville.$quot;

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