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Air Force, Airway Heights strike water agreement

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The Air Force has agreed to cover the cost to purchase drinking water for the City of Airway Heights under an agreement effective Nov. 1.

The purpose of this agreement is to mitigate a water shortfall caused by the closure of city wells due to Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) contamination.

In this environmental services agreement, the Air Force agrees to pay the city for its cost to purchase up to 439.08 million gallons of drinking water for a potential total cost of more than $687,000 over the next year.

“We are proud of our partnership with the City of Airway Heights and we want to reassure the community that the Air Force isn’t walking away from our commitment to them,” said Suzanne Bilbrey, Director of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center Environmental Management Directorate at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

In 2017, PFOS and PFOA exceeding Environmental Protection Agency lifetime health advisory levels for human exposure through drinking water were detected by the Air Force in wells belonging to Airway Heights. The city stopped using the wells and began relying on alternate water sources for the community.

A comprehensive investigation, led by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, into the past use of Aqueous Film Forming Foam, a firefighting agent containing PFOS/PFOA, on Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, found that military activities may have contributed to the contamination affecting Airway Heights drinking water wells. The base no longer uses that formula of AFFF.

AFCEC is using groundwater, surface water, soil and sediment sampling to map potential migration pathways to drinking water in communities around Fairchild AFB. Where PFOS/PFOA levels exceed the lifetime health advisory levels in drinking water supplies, and there is evidence the AF is likely a potential source of the contamination, the AFCEC immediately provides alternate drinking water sources if needed, said Cornell Long, team lead for AFCEC’s PFOS/PFOA response team.

“We are moving forward aggressively in our investigation. Our goals are to protect human health, keep residents informed throughout the investigation and ensure safe drinking water,” he said.

AFCEC is continuing to work with the City of Airway Heights and the local community to develop long-term solutions to provide safe drinking water, which may include alternate water supply sources or filtration systems.

For more information about the Air Force’s response to PFOS/PFOA, visit www.afcec.af.mil/WhatWeDo/Environment/Perfluorinated-Compounds.