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, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). 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 PFOS and PFOA in drinking water. The most common activity that could have resulted in the historical release of PFOS, PFOA, and other PFAS to the environment at Navy and Marine Corps 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 PFOS, PFOA, 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 PFOS and PFOA than many historical AFFF formulations. Further, the Navy and Marine Corps are working to identify a new formulation for firefighting foam that does not contain PFOS and PFOA but will still meet critical fire suppression, and ultimately lifesaving, properties. Until this formulation is approved, and products are available, the Navy and Marine Corps have 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 PFOS and PFOA. Because these interim health advisories are based on draft analyses, are below detectable limits, and are non-regulatory levels, the Department of Defense (DOD) is instead looking to EPA to propose a regulatory drinking water standard, which is anticipated by the end of this year. DOD is currently evaluating its efforts to address PFAS in drinking water, and what actions we can take to be prepared to incorporate this standard.
Off-Base Drinking Water Sampling at MCOLF Atlantic (Figure 1)
PFOS and PFOA have been detected in groundwater at MCOLF Atlantic above 70 ppt. The Navy and Marine Corps’ first priority is to ensure that concentrations of PFOS or PFOA in drinking water are not above 70 ppt as a result of a Navy or Marine Corps PFAS release. 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 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 MCOLF Atlantic
2017-2020 Off-base Drinking Water Sampling
The Navy and Marine Corps conducted off-base PFAS drinking water well sampling in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 based on information that was available at that time regarding potential releases of PFAS on-base.
The sampling area, shown in Figure 2, was established 1 mile in the direction that groundwater flows away from the release areas at the airfield. The sampling area was based on the only release area identified at the time of initial sampling and based on on-base sampling to date. Table 1 provides the results of all the sampling events. Bottled water is being provided to 1 property; a permanent solution is currently being evaluated.
2017-2020 Off-Base Drinking Water Sampling Results
In 2017, the Navy and Marine Corps team initiated the sampling of drinking water from wells within a designated area near MCOLF Atlantic. Table 1 summarizes the drinking water sampling results to date. We call each property owner and tenant upon receipt of their preliminary results to let them know if their water contains PFOS and/or PFOA above or below 70 ppt. Bottled water is typically provided within 24 hours of the preliminary results being received by the Navy and Marine Corps. Final laboratory results are mailed to each property owner and tenant after all data is 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. MCOLF Atlantic - Off-Base Drinking Water Results as of April 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*
* Detections of PFOA/PFOS above 70 ppt were previously reported in two wells; however, only one well was determined to be a drinking water well.
Identification of PFAS Releases at MCOLF Atlantic
The 2018 PA conducted at MCOLF Atlantic identified the following 10 on-base areas, shown on Figure 3, where the releases of PFAS may have occurred:
2000 – 2002 Forest Fire Area 1
2000 – 2002 Forest Fire Area 2
Wastewater Treatment Plant
Historical Crash Crew Staging Area 1
Historical Crash Crew Staging Area 2
Historical Crash Crew Staging Area 3
Historical South Runway Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) Area
Current Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) Area and Associated Parking Areas 1 and 2
M151 Jeep Emergency Response
CH-46 Helicopter Emergency Response
Various prescribed burn areas across MCOLF Atlantic were identified as potential PFAS release areas during the PA but a specific location could not be identified and therefore they are not depicted on Figure 3.
Figure 3. MCOLF Atlantic Potential PFAS Release Areas
In 2019 through 2021, sample collection and analysis of groundwater, soil, surface water, and sediment were completed in these areas in support of the SI. At MCOLF Atlantic, PFOS and PFOA were detected in shallow groundwater above 70 ppt. The Navy and Marine Corps will continue on-base PFAS investigations and evaluate if actions are needed on base.
MCOLF Atlantic Drinking Water Investigation Documents