In December 2022 and February 2023, the Navy and Marine Corps sampled drinking water wells near Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort to test for certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS. For questions about this sampling, please contact the MCAS Beaufort Public Affairs Office at 843-228-6123 or BFRT_JPAO@usmc.mil.
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 manufactured chemicals 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 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 ensure the communities near our installations are not exposed to drinking water with PFOA and/or PFOS because of a known or potential Navy release of PFAS-containing materials. The Navy’s first priority is to ensure that concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in drinking water are not above 70 ppt as a result of a Navy PFAS release. 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 may be present in nearby drinking water wells.
In January 2023, DoD announced the release of a new military specification for firefighting foam. Until products that meet this new military specification are available, the Navy will continue to use formulations that contain lower concentrations of PFOA and PFOS than many historical AFFF formulations and will continue to take steps to prevent or minimize additional release of firefighting foam to the environment.
In March 2023, EPA proposed drinking water regulations for several PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS. DoD respects and values the public comment process on this proposed nationwide drinking water rule and looks forward to the clarity that a final regulatory drinking water standard for PFAS will provide. In anticipation of the final standard that EPA expects to publish by the end of 2023, DoD is assessing what actions DoD can take to be prepared to incorporate EPA’s final regulatory standard into our current cleanup process, such as reviewing our existing data and conducting additional sampling where necessary. In addition, DoD will incorporate nationwide PFAS cleanup guidance, issued by EPA and applicable to all owners and operators under the federal cleanup law, as to when to provide alternate water when PFAS are present.
Off-Base Drinking Water Sampling at MCAS Beaufort (Figure 1)
PFOA and PFOS have been detected in groundwater at MCAS Beaufort above 70 ppt. When a known or suspected release of PFAS is identified on a Navy or Marine Corps installation and groundwater is used as drinking water, a sampling area is established 1 mile in the direction that groundwater likely flows away from a release area. The Navy and Marine Corps offer sampling to all property owners and tenants whose property is within the sampling area and whose drinking water is supplied by groundwater.
Figure 1: Location Map of MCAS Beaufort
The Navy and Marine Corps sampled drinking water wells located in the sampling area (Figure 2). Records indicate that most properties within the sampling area are provided drinking water by BJWSA. Property owners and tenants should contact BJWSA with any questions regarding treatment and testing of drinking water provided by BJWSA.
Figure 2: Drinking Water Sampling Area
Actions Based on Off-Base Drinking Water Sampling Results
The preliminary results from off-base drinking water sampling are expected approximately 30 days after collecting the samples. The Navy and Marine Corps provide notification to the property owners and tenants of their drinking water results and any follow-up actions, if needed. The Navy and Marine Corps will do their best to keep the testing results and property information confidential to the extent permitted by law.
The Navy and Marine Corps will provide bottled water for drinking and cooking to any property in the sampling area with a drinking water well that contains PFOA and/or PFOS above 70 ppt and does not have an alternate drinking water source available. The Navy and Marine Corps will continue to provide bottled water until a permanent solution is implemented.
Off-Base Drinking Water Sampling Results
In December 2022, the Navy and Marine Corps team initiated the sampling of drinking water from wells within a designated area near MCAS Beaufort. PFOA and/or PFOS were not detected above 70 ppt, as shown in Tables 1 and 2 and in Figure 3. Table 1 summarizes the drinking water sampling results, and Table 2 presents the PFOA, PFOS, and summed PFOA + PFOS results for each sample, listed from lowest to highest summed concentrations. Figure 3 shows the general location of the samples, the number of samples collected, and the ranges of detections in the sampling area. Because PFOA and/or PFOS were not detected above 70 ppt in any of the sampled drinking water wells, bottled water has not been provided to any property within the sampling area.
Upon receipt of the preliminary results, the Navy and Marine Corps called each property owner and tenant to notify them of their results. Final laboratory results have been mailed to each property owner and tenant after all data were verified and final. Out of respect for the privacy of the property owner and tenant, individual results are provided only to each property owner and tenant.
Table 1. MCAS Beaufort - Off-Base Drinking Water Sample Summary as of February 26, 2023
|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
Table 2. MCAS Beaufort - Off-Base Drinking Water Results as of February 26, 2023
Figure 3: Drinking Water Sampling Results as of February 26, 2023
Identification of PFAS at MCAS Beaufort
A Preliminary Assessment (PA) conducted in 2020 at MCAS Beaufort identified the following 28 on-base areas, shown on Figure 4, where releases of PFAS may have occurred. In December 2021, sample collection and analysis of groundwater and soil was completed at these areas as part of a Site Inspection (SI). The Navy and Marine Corps will continue on-base PFAS investigations and evaluate if actions are needed on base.
|Known and Potential PFAS Release Areas at MCAS Beaufort
||Mobile Defoaming Unit
||SWMU 13 - Western Fire Training Pits
||SWMU 18 - Current Fire Training Pits
||SWMU 63 - OWS at Current Fire Training Pits
||1991 Crash Site
||Compass Rose Crash Site
||West Ramp Area
||Former Hangar 728
||East Ramp Area
||Building 1313 – Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Station
||Building 595 – Former Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting/Fire Department Station
||Former Hangar 416
||SWMU 74 - Hazardous Waste Storage Tank 979
||SWMU 67 – Sewage Treatment Plant
||SWMU 6 Former Seepage Trenches and SWMU 14 Inert Landfill
||Building 2085 - Fire Department Station
||2019 Fire Response Area
||SWMU 12 - Former Eastern Fire Training Pits
Figure 4: PFAS Release Areas at MCAS Beaufort Identified in the PA
MCAS Beaufort Drinking Water Sampling Documents