Navy Finds Two Homes Near Landing Field Have Contaminated Wells

Water faucet slowly drips. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky)
Water faucet slowly drips. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky)

High levels of contaminants were found in two drinking wells near Fentress Naval Auxiliary Landing Field, the Navy announced Thursday.

A firefighting foam that was used for decades at Fentress was the source of the contaminants in a recent lab test, and the Navy decided to test homes within a half-mile radius of the base.

The results announced Thursday showed that two of the 52 off-base wells that had drinking water samples collected last month had levels of perfluorinated compounds that exceeded a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provisional health advisory. The two properties are being provided bottled water for drinking and cooking until a solution can be put in place.

"The well-being of our people on Fentress and our city of Chesapeake neighbors is a top priority for the Navy," said Capt. Lou Schager, commanding officer of Fentress and Oceana Naval Air Station.

The results announced Thursday are preliminary, according to the news release. Once all the results are validated, officials said, the additional properties that were sampled will receive individual notifications of their results.

A public information session is scheduled for March 24, similar to one conducted by the Navy, federal, state and local agencies in February. The location and time are being determined.

The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't regulate perfluorinated compounds, but it considers them an "emerging contaminant" that could threaten health or the environment. The EPA is studying the contaminants to figure out whether regulations for acceptable levels are needed. For now, a provisional health advisory level was put into place.

Some studies have indicated the compounds increase the risk for cancer in animals and damage to human liver cells and an association with thyroid disease. Other studies have shown exposure may cause elevated cholesterol levels and low birth weight in humans.

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