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Naval Research Laboratory, Chesapeake Bay Detachment

Environmental Restoration Program Public Website

Owners of property within the sampling area whose drinking water has not been tested
may request sampling by completing the Homeowner Questionnaire or by calling (202) 685-0384


Naval Research Laboratory – Chesapeake Bay Detachment PFAS Drinking Water Well Sampling

The Naval Research Laboratory – Chesapeake Bay Detachment (NRL-CBD) is located approximately 40 miles from Washington, D.C., and occupies approximately 160 acres along the western shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay. Established in the early 1940s, the mission of NRL-CBD is to provide and maintain facilities for use by the research divisions of the NRL located in Washington D.C. for the testing, development, and evaluation of radar, radio, optical and fire control equipment, among other research projects.

Fire suppressant testing at NRL-CBD, including the testing of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), has been ongoing since 1968. Some AFFF contains per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS. Results of a recent on-base groundwater investigation indicates that these substances are present in shallow groundwater as a result of historical activities at NRL-CBD; as a result, may have impacted off-base shallow groundwater which may be used for drinking water. In an abundance of caution, the Navy plans to conduct drinking water sampling for certain PFAS in drinking water wells in the vicinity of NRL-CBD.

NRL-CBD Off-Base Drinking Water Results

NRL-CBD Off-Base Drinking Water Sampling Results as of Friday November 9, 2018

Samples scheduled to be collected

Samples Collected

Preliminary Results Received

Validated Results Received

Preliminary Results Received above the LHA

Validated Results Received above the LHA








Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

PFAS are manufactured chemicals that have been used since the 1950s in many household and industrial products because of their stain‐ and water‐repellant properties. Within Department of the Navy’s (DON) operations, PFAS are most commonly associated with aqueous film‐forming foam (AFFF) used primarily for firefighting (including response to plane crashes, equipment testing, and/or training, buildings where AFFF was used in the fire suppression system), but can also be contained in some other materials (e.g., certain specialty paints ) and wastes. PFAS are now present virtually everywhere in the world because of the large amounts that have been manufactured and used. Once these compounds are released to the environment, they break down very slowly. PFAS are considered “emerging” contaminants, which have no Safe Drinking Water Act regulatory standards or routine water quality testing requirements. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is currently studying PFAS to determine if national regulation is needed.

The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) amendments require that once every five years USEPA issue a new list of no more than 30 unregulated contaminants to be monitored by public water systems (PWSs). The USEPA issued the third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 3) in May 2012. The UCMR 3 required monitoring, between 2013 and 2015, for 30 substances of all large PWSs serving more than 10,000 people and 800 representative PWSs serving 10,000 or fewer people. Six PFAS compounds were included in the UCMR 3 contaminant list. In May 2016 the USEPA issued health advisories for two PFAS compounds, specifically perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), and has published toxicity values for another, perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS). Health advisories are not regulatory standards. They are health‐based concentrations which offer a margin of protection for all Americans throughout their lives from exposure to PFOS and PFOA in drinking water. The USEPA health advisory level for lifetime exposure is 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOS and 70 ppt for PFOA. When both PFOS and PFOA are found in drinking water, the combined concentrations should not exceed 70 ppt.

Navy Policy

The DON Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy, Installations and Environment) (ASN (EI&E)) issued a policy in 2014 requiring on-base drinking water sampling for PFOA and PFOS for bases where groundwater was used as drinking water and PFAS could have been released nearby in the past. Under the policy, all installations not previously tested under UCMR 3 which produce drinking water from on-installation sources and have an identified or suspected PFAS release within approximately 1-mile up-gradient to the drinking water source were required to sample their finished drinking water by December 2015. In June 2016, the DON issued additional policy that required all DON installations not previously tested under UCMR 3 or the 2014 policy to test their finished drinking water regardless of the source (on-installation or municipal) regardless of proximity to a potential/known PFAS release to the environment.

In June 2016, the DON ASN (EI&E) also issued a policy to identify and prioritize sites for investigation if drinking water resources, on- or off-installation, are thought to be vulnerable to PFAS contamination from past known or potential Navy releases of PFAS. Sites with drinking water sources within 1 mile downgradient from known or potential releases of PFAS were assigned the highest priority. The Navy identified NRL-CBD as a site with potential off-site PFAS migration and exposure via consumption of groundwater used a drinking source. A review of county records led the Navy to believe that drinking water wells located with the area of potential off-base migration to be cased through the Calvert Formation (clay) and into the deeper Piney Point aquifer, with little to no potential for PFAS exposure pathway for human consumption. However, a handful of records could not be located so approximately a dozen well depths could not be confirmed. Based on past drought conditions in the area and the review of the available well logs, it was assumed that these few wells would also be screening in the deeper Piney Point aquifer. The assumption of no PFAS migration to the deeper Piney Point Aquifer was confirmed in the Navy’s 2017 investigation of the FTA. The results of this site investigation found that although the surficial groundwater at the FTA contained PFAS, the deeper Piney Point aquifer did not contain detectable levels of PFAS. In May 2018, the Navy learned that there may be limited number of private drinking water wells screened in surficial groundwater in an area south of the base where shallow groundwater from the FTA could be migrating off-base. Additionally, better understanding of the fate and transport of PFAS via surface water has led the Navy to reconsider the potential for transport and exposure to PFAS from groundwater used as drinking water near the north side of the installation.

With the recognition of some residents living in the area that may be impacted by PFAS in the surficial via consumption of this groundwater as drinking water, and because water quality both on-base and for our off-base neighbors is a priority for the DON, ASN (EI&E) directed the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Environmental Restoration (ER) Program to conduct an off-base drinking water investigation to address this potential for exposure to PFAS in drinking water. The initial focus of these off-base drinking water investigations is the area with the potential for off-base migration of PFAS in the surficial aquifer. To ensure protectiveness, the Navy will offer this drinking water sampling to all residents in the sampling area, regardless of the depth of their drinking water well. At NRL-CBD, the off-base area is shown in the figure above. This area includes approximately 79 private drinking water wells which the Navy will request permission to sample to ensure the Navy’s neighbors are not being exposed to PFAS in their drinking water at concentrations exceeding the US Environmental Protection Agency health advisory level.

NRL-CBD Drinking Water Investigation Documents

Additional Documents


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