OEPA, Trumbull dept. to check Vienna wells for chemicals used in fire suppression

Staff report


Selected residential wells around the Youngstown Air Reserve Station are to be tested to determine if chemicals used in the past for fire suppression are in the groundwater.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Trumbull County Department of Health will conduct the testing.

According to the Ohio EPA, wells are being tested in light of new drinking water health advisory levels issued by the federal EPA.

The Ohio EPA and local health department officials are approaching residences near the base that use well water to ask permission to sample their water, said Heidi Griesmer, deputy director of communication for the Ohio EPA.

Wells will be targeted for sampling if they are potentially close enough to a base and located in the right direction to potentially be in the path of groundwater flowing away from the base.

When the Ohio EPA receives the results from the laboratory, typically three weeks after the sampling, the results will be given to the well user/property owner.

If the reported levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are below the U.S. EPA health advisory of 70 parts per trillion parts of water, no action will be necessary.

If the levels of PFOA and PFOS are greater than 70 parts per trillion, the Ohio EPA will arrange with the well user/property owner to re-sample to confirm the initial results.

If the test samples confirm levels above 70 parts per trillion, the information will be shared with the Air Force, and if the evidence proves the base is the source of the contamination, then the Ohio EPA expects the Air Force will take action to reduce any health effect, such as bottled water, installation of water filtration equipment, or alternative water sources, such as connection to available public water systems.

PFOA and PFOS have been used for many years to make carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food, nonstick cookware and other materials that are resistant to water, grease or stains.

The chemicals also are used in foams applied to fight fuel-based fires at air bases and could have entered the groundwater there due to releases during training, usage or storage, according to the Ohio EPA.

Studies indicate exposure to PFOA and PFOS above certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breast-fed infants, cancer, liver damage, immune system effects and other issues.

The National Guard Bureau and the Air Force have scheduled testing of sites across the country, including Ohio, in federal fiscal years 2017 and 2018. But, the Ohio EPA believes the testing should be done sooner to ensure the drinking water is safe, said Griesmer.

Sampling will not involve direct entry into wells or drilling; rather, it will involve collecting water from an outdoor faucet, or if one is not available, the house will be evaluated for the appropriate sampling point, likely a kitchen or bathroom sink or another fixture. The sampling point will need to avoid any water softeners or point-of-use water filters.

Other types of common treatment systems, such as water softeners, are not likely to remove the chemicals, nor will boiling water remove them.

For information on the sampling, contact Jeff Patzke, Ohio EPA-Division of Drinking and Ground Waters, at 614- 644-2752. For health-related questions, contact Bob Frey, ODH, at 614-466-1390.

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