Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana
Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana, located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was established in 1943 as a small auxiliary airfield. Since 1943, NAS Oceana has grown to more than 16 times its original size and is now approximately a 6,000-acre Master Jet Base supporting an installation workforce of approximately 19,000 people. The primary mission of NAS Oceana is to provide the personnel, operations, maintenance, and training facilities to ensure that fighter and attack squadrons on aircraft carriers of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet are ready for deployment.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of thousands of different chemicals that have been widely used in industrial and consumer products since the 1950s. PFAS are man-made and have been used in many household and industrial products because of their stain- and water-repellent properties. PFAS are now present virtually everywhere in the world. Once these compounds are released, they break down very slowly.
In May 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued lifetime drinking water health advisories of 70 parts per trillion (ppt), individually or combined, for two commonly used and studied PFAS, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Health advisories are not enforceable, and are not regulatory levels; rather, they are levels that provide Americans, including sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure.
In June 2016 the Department of the Navy developed a proactive policy to investigate past releases of PFAS at installations nationwide and has used the 2016 health advisories for PFOA and PFOS to determine an acceptable level of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. The most common activity that could have resulted in the historical release of PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS to the environment at Navy installations is the use of firefighting foam (specifically, aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF) for testing, training, firefighting, and other life-saving emergency responses. Because of this historical use, there is potential for PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS to be in the groundwater on base, and also be present in nearby drinking water wells that are located in the direction that the groundwater flows away from the base. Current formulations that meet military specifications contain lower concentrations of PFOA and PFOS than many historical AFFF formulations. Further, the Navy is working to identify a new formulation for firefighting foam that does not contain PFOA and PFOS but will still meet critical fire suppression, and ultimately lifesaving, properties. Until this formulation is approved, and products are available, the Navy has taken steps to prevent or minimize additional release of firefighting foam to the environment.
On June 15, 2022, the EPA issued new interim drinking water health advisories for PFOA and PFOS. The Navy is currently evaluating how to address the EPA’s new health advisories. The Navy is coordinating with the Department of Defense to develop a consistent approach, to include proactive engagement with communities and the appropriate Congressional delegations.
Areas for PFAS Drinking Water Well Sampling
The Navy has sampled 151 private drinking water wells from 14 parcels within a designated area near NAS Oceana for certain PFAS.
Because of the historical use of AFFF at NAS Oceana, PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS are present in the groundwater at the installation as well as in private drinking water wells that are located in the direction that the groundwater flows away from the installation. The designated sampling area, as shown in Figure 1, was selected because of the proximity to NAS Oceana and the general groundwater flow direction.
The majority of properties in the designated sampling area receive drinking water from the City of Virginia Beach. Properties that consume the City of Virginia Beach drinking water do not need to be sampled, as the drinking water provided by the City of Virginia Beach has been tested and PFOS and PFOA were not detected.
NAS Oceana Actions Based on Drinking Water Sampling Results
The Navy has conducted drinking water sampling for certain PFAS in drinking water wells in the vicinity of NAS Oceana since December 2016. Table 1 summarizes the drinking water sampling results to date. The Navy continues to evaluate results as new data are collected and will expand the sampling area and conduct actions as needed. When PFOA/PFOS was not detected or was measured at or below 70 ppt in a drinking water sample, no additional action was taken.
Table 1. NAS Oceana – Off-Base Drinking Water Results as of November 7, 2022
|Number of Wells Sampled
||Number of wells with no detections of PFOA or PFOS
||Number of wells with detections of PFOA and/or PFOS below 70 ppt
||Number of wells with detections of PFOA and/or PFOS above 70 ppt
1 A total of 16 wells on 15 parcels had previously been included in the sampling results; however, 1 drinking water sample was later determined to be from a municipal water connection rather than a private drinking water well.
Based on the detections of PFOA/PFOS above 70 ppt in drinking water, an emergency response action was implemented. Under the emergency response action, bottled water was provided and continues to be provided to the off-installation property whose drinking water contained PFOA/PFOS above 70 ppt. An Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis (EE/CA) for a non-time critical removal action to address PFAS in the off-installation private drinking water near NAS Oceana was finalized in fiscal year (FY) 2020. The EE/CA evaluates alternatives to address potential current and future exposure to drinking water at the off-installation property with PFOA and PFOS concentrations above 70 ppt. Based on evaluation of the alternatives, connection to city water is recommended. The Action Memorandum for Private Drinking Water was subsequently finalized in FY 2020. The city water line extension is planned for Fiscal Year 2024.
NAS Oceana Drinking Water Investigation Documents
USEPA. 2014. Provisional Peer-Reviewed Toxicity Values for Perfluorobutane Sulfonate (CASRN 375-73-5) and Related Compound Potassium Perfluorobutane Sulfonate (CASRN 29420-49-3). Superfund Health Risk Technical Support Center, National Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development. July.
USEPA. 2016a. Drinking Water Health Advisory for Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). USEPA 822-R-16-005. Office of Water. May.
USEPA. 2016b. Drinking Water Health Advisory for Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS). USEPA 822-R-16-004. Office of Water. May.
USEPA. 2019a. Development of the Proposed Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule for the Fifth Monitoring Cycle (UCMR 5): Public Meeting and Webinar. Held July 16, 2019. USEPA, Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water. July.
USEPA. 2019b. EPA’s Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan. Office of Water. February.
USEPA. 2019c. Interim Recommendations to Address Groundwater Contaminated with Perfluorooctanoic Acid and Perfluorooctanesulfonate. Office of Land and Emergency Management. December.
USEPA. 2020. EPA PFAS Action Plan: Program Update February 2020. Office of Water. February.