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Marine Corps AIr Station Cherry Point

Environmental Restoration Program Public Website


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 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 Navy 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 with the investigations of past releases 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 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 PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS to be in the groundwater on base, and PFAS may be present in nearby drinking water wells that are located in the direction that the groundwater flows away from the base.

In January 2023, the Navy released a new military specification for a formulation of AFFF that does not contain PFAS. 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.

On March 14, 2023, the EPA proposed a draft regulatory drinking water standard for certain PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS. In response, DoD has issued the following statement: “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, the 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 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 2024

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

Additional Documents


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