DOVER, Del. (AP) — Businesses and residents near Dover Air Force Base in Delaware are being provided bottled water after chemical contaminants were found in private wells near the base at levels far exceeding federal health advisory levels.
State officials said in a news release Sunday that Air Force officials had notified them that four wells had perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, above the EPA advisory levels of 70 parts per trillion.
"The normal was 70, it was like 2,000 and something," said Dave Goldstar, co-owner of Tropical Delight, a Jamaican restaurant that sits across a highway from the military base.
Meanwhile, the well at a nearby business office had a PFOS level of 168,000 parts per trillion and a PFOA level of 2,460 parts per trillion, according to a document provided to The Associated Press.
Goldstar's restaurant is one of five businesses in a small strip mall that share a contaminated well.
"I never trusted this water anyway," said Jesse Stone, who has a water cooler for patrons at his Just Cuts barbershop.
Stone had six cases of bottled water stacked up in a back room. Goldstar said military officials provided him an initial delivery of seven cases of half-liter bottles and seven cases of gallon jugs.
"Now we're using bottled water when we cook," said Goldstar, who expects to use about 10 gallons a day for cooking and prepping food.
"Having to cook with bottles of water instead of just going through the normal day is going to be a pain in the ass," he said.
Larry Clark, who lives next to the shopping center, said he is still waiting for results from the sampling of his well. According to minutes of a June 19 teleconference involving military officials, consultants, and state and federal regulators, 34 well water samples were collected from 31 off-base properties last month. Seven properties initially targeted for sampling were not sampled because officials were unable to obtain the property owners' consent.
Goldstar said military officials told him that last month's sampling of the shopping center's well was the first they had conducted since 2014.
"They really don't know when they contaminated it. They just know that they did it," he said.
According to a base spokeswoman, a drinking water well southeast of the base tested in May 2016 above the EPA's health advisory limits at 91 parts per trillion combined PFOS/PFOA.
"Bottled water was immediately provided to the resident, and a whole-house carbon filtration system was installed shortly thereafter," 436th Airlift Wing spokeswoman Capt. Ashleigh Peck said in an email Monday.
"The Air Force is committed to protecting human health on and around Dover Air Force Base," Peck added. "We share concerns about potential PFOS/PFOA contamination of drinking water and we are moving aggressively to protect drinking water supplies affected by our former Air Force activities."
Members of Delaware's congressional delegation issued a statement Monday expressing concern about the chemical contamination.
"But as Dover residents know all too well, this is far from a new threat — and the Air Force's actions this weekend represent only a tiny fraction of their long-term responsibilities," said Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. "Disappointingly, the Department of Defense has not been confronting this issue with the urgency it deserves. DOD continues to advocate for weaker groundwater cleanup standards and downplay the extent of their cleanup liabilities."
PFOA and PFOS are among a class of manmade compounds known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The compounds have been used in a variety of consumer and industrial products, including nonstick cookware, stain- and water-resistant fabrics, food packaging and, notably, firefighting foam that has been used at military bases across the country.
Carper noted that a report released last week by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group, found PFAS contamination at 712 locations in 49 states, including 219 military installations.
Peck, the Dover base spokeswoman, said the base began converting in 2016 to a firefighting foam that is PFOS-free and has only trace amounts of PFOA.
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