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The compounds perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) belong to a class of synthetic organic chemicals used in many industrial and household products since the 1950s, including nonstick cookware (Teflon), waterproof fabric (Scotch Guard) and some food packaging. The most widespread use of PFOS/PFOA in the Air Force is in Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), a firefighting agent widely used to extinguish petroleum fires at civilian and military airports across the United States. AFFF was used extensively at Fairchild AFB from the 1970s until 2016 to fight petroleum fires. PFOS/PFOA dissolve easily in water and can travel with the groundwater and are unregulated compounds classified as “emerging contaminants” by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) because information about PFOS/PFOA are evolving as additional studies are conducted. The USEPA issued a Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for drinking water in May of 2016. This advisory caused the Air Force to initiate groundwater sampling in the Fairchild AFB area for PFOS/PFOA that began in in April, 2017.
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is another chemical historically used at Fairchild AFB that has made its way into the environment. TCE can be found on-base in soils and groundwater and just outside of the base boundaries in the groundwater to the north and east of the installation. TCE is a chlorinated solvent primarily used as a degreaser for metal products that is nonflammable and colorless, and at high concentrations, has an odor similar to ether or chloroform. Like PFOS/PFOA, TCE dissolves easily in water and can travel with the groundwater, but differs in that it can degrade by natural processes. TCE is a common contaminant found in many places all around the world. Environmental professionals at Fairchild AFB have identified where TCE contamination is located on- and off-base and have taken steps to mitigate this compound in soil and groundwater.
Areas Being Sampled
The maps linked below show the off-base areas of groundwater contamination:
The Air Force has sampled many private drinking water wells in these areas over the last several years. Sampling is offered to residences with private wells used for drinking water located within the shaded areas of either map. To request sampling and to verify that your residence is eligible for sampling, please contact the Fairchild Air Force Base Public Affairs office at (509) 247-5705 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Air Force will evaluate your situation to determine eligibility for sampling based on the location of your drinking water well in relation to the off-base contamination impacts and verify that your residence is within the area of concern. If your residence is eligible and has not been previously sampled, the residence will be added to the well sampling list and sampled as soon as practical. A copy of the sampling results will be provided to you. If contamination is found above the health advisory or drinking water standards, the Air Force will work with you to mitigate the contaminants in the well. Please note that all sampling and mitigation costs are paid for by the Air Force.
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 PFAS/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 sampling effort at your residence.
2021 Sampling Season
Sampling of private drinking water wells is conducted on a quarterly basis. If you live in or have a business in the sampling area and are already in the Air Force testing program, you will receive a postcard in the mail inviting you to have your well tested. Postcards are mailed out four times a year. If you have not received a postcard, it is likely that you are not in an area where sampling is offered. If you would like to check your eligibility for sampling and have not had sampling conducted previously please contact Fairchild AFB Public Affairs at 509-247-5705. We encourage everyone within the eligible areas that utilize a well for drinking water purposes 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 previous sampling rounds. If residents’ wells have not already been tested, it may be because they are not within the area determined to be at risk for possible Air Force-related contamination or the well just has not been sampled previously.
If your drinking water well is within the sample area and you have not been contacted, please contact the Fairchild AFB 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 expense. Information regarding private well sampling can be found through the Spokane Regional Health District at 509-324-1574.
Testing your Home or Business for TCE
The Air Force is not currently testing for TCE contamination. If you feel you live in an area with potential TCE contamination, please contact the Fairchild AFB Restoration Team at 509-247-2450.
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