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The compounds Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have been used in household and commercial products since the 1950s, and contamination found in this area could have occurred at any point since then from a variety of military, commercial and industrial sources. Fairchild AFB utilized a widely-used version of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), a firefighting foam that contained PFOS/PFOAs, from the 1970s until 2016. PFOS/PFOAs are unregulated compounds and are classified as “emerging contaminants” by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). The USEPA issued updated lifetime Health Advisory levels of 70 parts per trillion in May of 2016. The Air Force initiated sampling of groundwater in this area for PFOS/PFOA in May, 2016. Prior to that time, no groundwater sampling had occurred.
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a compound that is a nonflammable, colorless liquid at room temperature with an odor similar to ether or chloroform. It is a man-made chemical that does not occur naturally in the environment. TCE is a solvent primarily used as a degreaser for metal products, however, it can also be used to create various other chemicals. TCE can be found in the outdoor air at levels far less than 1 part TCE per one million parts of air (ppm). Over the past several years, some of the water supplies in certain areas of the United States were found to have TCE in them.
Areas Being Sampled
The map above show the areas where water sampling is offered to homeowners, tenants, property owners and businesses as outlined by the shaded areas. Residences, businesses and schools within or touching the boundary line may also be eligible for testing.
The Air Force remains committed to the health and safety of the communities in and around Fairchild Air Force Base during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Air Force and its subcontractors will continue to monitor for Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to ensure you are not being exposed and will follow the strategies and recommendations of the CDC and OSHA to reduce impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fairchild AFB’s sampling program will proceed as usual, with special precautions being taken during the placement and pickup of the sampling device in your home and business.
2021 Sampling Season
The sampling season for 2021 begins in January and runs through December 2021 on a quarterly basis. If you live in or have a business in the sampling area you are eligible for testing, and either have or will receive a post card in the mail inviting you to have your home or business tested. Post cards will be mailed out four times a year. If you do not receive a post card, you are not in an area where we are currently sampling. However, if you are in the sampling area and have not received a post card please contact Public Affairs at (509) 247-5705. We encourage everyone within the eligible areas to have their home or business tested.
Testing your Home or Business for PFOS/PFOA
The Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC) is currently evaluating if additional sampling is needed based on hydrogeological data combined with the results from phase 1 and phase 2 sampling. If residents’ wells have not already been tested, it is because they are not within the area determined to be at risk for possible Air Force-related contamination.
If your drinking water well is within the sample area and you haven't been contacted, please contact the Fairchild Air Force Base Public Affairs office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday thru Friday at 509-247-5705. Residents can also pursue private well sampling, at their own cost. Info regarding private well sampling can be found through the Spokane Regional Health District at 509-324-1574.
The Air Force is currently not testing for TCE contamination but if you feel you are living in an area that could have potential contamination by TCE please contact the Fairchild Air Force Base Restoration Team at (509) 247-2450.
Why we test
Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are part of a man-made class of chemicals called Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). These chemicals are long lasting in the environment and have been used since the 1950s in many products because of their stain and water repellant properties and have been present in regular household items such as fabric for upholstered furniture, carpets, nonstick cookware, and floor wax amongst other items. PFOS/PFOA has been globally distributed in the environment and has been detected in the blood of humans, wildlife, and fish.
PFOS/PFOA are Unregulated Contaminants. There are no Safe Drinking Water Act regulatory limits for the use of PFOS/PFOA. The United States Environmental Protection Agency uses the "Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule" program to collect data for emerging contaminants suspected to be present in drinking water. To read more about PFOS/PFOA and how it could move into Drinking Water, click here.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA, 1977) banned the use of trichloroethylene as a solvent because of its toxicity; its use in cosmetic and drug products were also discontinued (Mertens, 1993). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) considers trichloroethylene (TCE) to be a known human carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified trichloroethylene as carcinogenic to humans. As of June 22, 2020 the side effects associated with TCE exposure are: Acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) inhalation exposure to trichloroethylene can affect the human central nervous system (CNS), with symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, confusion, euphoria, facial numbness, and weakness.
PFOS/PFOA Top Questions and Answers
PFOS/PFOA Exposure and Health Effects
PFOS/PFOA Drinking Water Health Advisories
Frequently Asked Questions
EPA’s PFAS/PFOA Website
Spokane Health District
Spokane Water Quality Reports
Fairchild AFB Remedial Project Managers
92nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10
Washington State Department of Ecology