OCEAN COUNTY – Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst sent representatives to Jackson to discuss the current findings of contamination in wells in municipalities around the base.
Jackson Mayor Michael Reina invited JBMDL officials to Christa McAuliffe Middle School on February 28 to share information on the contamination and cleanup of Perfluorinated Compounds. Several dozen residents attended and were able to speak to military and health personnel.
Of the 100 wells tested thus far, three came back with elevated levels of the PFCs Perfluorooctanoic Acid and Perfluorooctane Sulfanate, two compounds found in everyday household items such as nonstick cookware, stain resistant carpet and fabrics, and specialized foam, which was used on the base for years and which officials said likely led to the groundwater contamination.
The specialized foam was used since 1970 by the Air Force to extinguish petroleum fires. However, by the end of 2017, the Air Force plans to move away from using it, and will instead use a foam with even fewer Perfluorinated Compounds. A $6.2 million contract was awarded to ICL Performance Products last August for the new foam.
There are no federal regulations regarding PFCs: the EPA established lifetime health advisory levels of 70 parts per trillion for two of these compounds, PFOA and PFOS, individually or combined, in drinking water. “New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection have established an interim specific ground water criterion for Perfluorononanoic Acid (PFNA) of 10 ppt,” according to JBMDL literature.
All the wells that were affected were shallow, less than 100 feet down. Two of the wells were near the base in Manchester, and one in Jackson, again, by the base. The two homes in Manchester had water filtration systems installed, at the base’s cost. The home in Jackson is receiving bottled water until a permanent remedy is found, either installing the filtration system or, if possible, hooking the home to city water.
Members are the press were not granted one-on-one interviews with military personnel during the open house on February 28, but could ask some questions while monitored by a JBMDL public affairs official.
About $3 million has been spent on this cleanup thus far, most of that having gone to base cleanup, one official said.
Two backup wells on the base exceeded EPA health ranges; those backup wells were used for a brief time in December, and had tested below those health ranges. The wells, 5 and 9, are part of the main water system on the base and serve about 3,000 who live and work there. The wells will be kept offline until treatment systems are upgraded and more testing is completed.
The February 27 press release about these wells did not indicate what may have caused the unhealthy increase between October and now.
Despite the military reaching out to homes around its perimeter in Jackson, Manchester, Pemberton and New Hanover townships, many residences have still not been tested for PFCs. The military bears all testing and mitigation costs; however, some officials speculated that homeowners may not want to have to deal with the fallout of a contaminated well, even a remedied one, should they ever sell their homes.
“As we will evaluate all of the data continuously and make decisions on expanding areas or resampling based on the data,” Chris Powell, TSgt, USAF, said after the open house.